The world’s 500 richest people have increased their wealth by $1tn so far this year due to a huge increase in the value of global stock markets, which are likely to finish 2017 at record highs.
The big increase in the fortunes of the ultra-wealthy comes as billions of poorer people across the world have seen their wealth standstill or decline. The gap between the very rich and everyone else has widened to the biggest it has been in a century and advisers to the super-rich are warning them of a “strike back” from the squeezed majority.
Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder of Amazon, clocked in as the world's richest person, gaining $34.2 billion in wealth. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates came in at No. 2. Bezos, whose net worth topped $100 billion at the end of November, currently has a net worth of $99.6 billion compared with $91.3 billion for Gates.
China's 1 percent did particularly well. There are 38 Chinese billionaires on the Bloomberg index, and they gained a combined $177 billion this year. That 65 percent jump was the largest for any of the 49 countries represented. Hui Ka Yan, founder of China Evergrande Group, a property developer, saw his personal bank accounts swell by $25.9 billion, a 350 percent jump from last year.
Russia's 27 richest residents did well, too, adding $29 billion to grow to $275 billion, despite the international economic sanctions imposed after President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea in 2014.
Global losers included Alwaleed bin Talal, the richest person in Saudi Arabia, whose fortune dropped $1.9 billion to $17.8 billion after he was arrested as part of a corruption crackdown by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Several other Saudi royals, government officials and business leaders were scooped up, as well.
The globe’s 500 richest people, as measured by the Bloomberg billionaires index, have seen the value of the wealth increase by 23% so far this year, taking their combined fortunes to $5.3tn. The increase is largely the result of booming stock markets. The MSCI World Index and the US Standard & Poor’s 500 are both up almost 20% so far this year. The UK’s FTSE 100 is up more than 6% – and hit a new closing high of 7,620.7 points on Wednesday.
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