The total number of billionaires
worldwide fell 5.4 percent in 2018 against a backdrop of heightened market volatility, global trade tensions and a slowdown in economic growth. According to a new report from Wealth-X
, that was only the second decline in the billionaire population since the financial crisis a decade ago. There were 2,604 billionaires worldwide last year with a collective fortune of $8.56 trillion. The fall last year is in stark contrast to 2017 when nearly every major asset delivered strong returns. In 2017, there were 2,754 billionaires with a collective wealth of $9.2 trillion.
The report states that the situation in 2018 requires some context. It occurred after a year of unprecedented wealth creation
in 2017 which culminated in the billionaire population reaching a record high. A loss of momentum in the global economy and asset markerts in the second half of the year also resulted in sharp falls in equities and investor sentiment. The decline was also exacerbated by the trade war between the U.S. in China while the strengthening dollar, falls in technology shares and disruption in the automotive sector were also contributory factors.
Despite the decline in 2018, the number of billionaires and their collective fortune remains well in excess of levels seen two years ago. On a regional basis, Asia-Pacific suffered the biggest reversal out of any billionaire population with a decline of 13.4 percent. Europe, the Middle East and Africa experienced a decrease of 4.6 percent while the Americas grew slightly by 0.9 percent.