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Millionaires can't seem to flee this European country fast enough

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 1/03/2017 Quentin Fottrell

There’s been a surge in the number of millionaires around the world who are moving countries.

Some 82,000 high-net-worth individuals, defined as those who have assets over $1 million, left their home countries last year, versus 64,000 in 2015, according to the “Global Health Review: Worldwide Wealth and Wealth Migration Trends.” For the second consecutive year, Australia was the No. 1 country welcoming millionaire migrants, beating even the U.S. There was a 38% jump in millionaire migrants to Australia (11,000 last year versus 8,000 in 2015) and a 43% increase in those migrants to the U.S. over the same period (10,000 in 2016 versus 7,000).

The movement of millionaire migrants is a key indicator of how wealthy residents feel about the current political and economic climate of the countries that have fallen in and out of favor.

High-net-worth individuals, however, fled France last year in greater numbers than any other country. Some 12,000 millionaires left France last year, versus 10,000 in 2015, a gain of 20%, even though economic growth accelerated in the fourth quarter of last year. There have been several terror attacks in France in recent years. And there are winds of political change blowing: Earlier this month, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen launched her presidential campaign with a hardline speech on immigration and globalization, leading some commentators to say Le Pen, if she won, could pull France out of the European Union in a “Frexit.” 

This was followed by China (9,000 millionaires left, unchanged from 2015) and Brazil (8,000 millionaire migrants leaving the country last year, an increase of 300%, followed by India (a 50% increase to 6,000) and Turkey (6,000 millionaires left that country, a 500% increase). Ivan Martchev, an investment specialist with institutional money manager Navellier and Associates, recently wrote on MarketWatch that China’s foreign-exchange reserves fell by $12.3 billion to $2.998 trillion. Turkey, meanwhile, recently experienced terrorist attacks, political unrest and a failed coup.

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Of course, wealthier countries have a higher number of millionaires than others to begin with, but their movement is still a key indicator of how wealthy residents feel about the current political and economic climate of those places, economists say. And although there is still great uncertainty about America’s new administration, the stock market has rallied since President Donald Trump’s election and, despite comments by President Trump that he inherited a “mess,” the U.S. economy, as measured by gross domestic product, is still by far the largest in the world.

There were 13.6 million high-net-worth individuals in the world at the end of 2016 and their worldwide wealth stood at $69 trillion, according to the report, released by Research and Markets, an international research organization. In fact, ultra high-net-worth individuals — defined as those with assets of $30 million or more — will transfer $3.9 trillion to the next generation by 2026, according to “Preparing for Tomorrow: A Report on Family Wealth Transfers,” released Monday by global wealth consultancy Wealth-X and insurance brokerage and consulting firm NFP.

America was no longer No. 1 for super-rich in 2016. The wealth of high-net-worth individuals in the Asia-Pacific grew by 10% or almost five times North America’s 2% growth for high-net-worth individuals last year, according to a separate report on the wealthiest nations in the world released last year by Capgemini, a global consulting, technology and outsourcing service. “The World Wealth Report” covers 71 countries, accounting for more than 98% of global gross national income and 99% of world stock market capitalization.

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