Sep 05

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The old saying holds true: The rich do get richer.

Even as world financial markets broke down last year, personal wealth around the world grew 5 percent to $109.5 trillion, according to a global wealth report released on Thursday by Boston Consulting Group.

It was the sixth consecutive year of expanding wealth. The fastest growth was among households in developing regions, such as China and the Gulf States and among families who were already rich.

That wealth also is increasingly concentrated among the richest.

The top 1 percent of all households owned 35 percent of the world’s wealth last year. Meanwhile, the top 0.001 percent, ultra-rich households holding at least $5 million in assets, commanded $21 trillion — a fifth of the world’s wealth.

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Jun 19

June 19 (Bloomberg) — High-net worth individuals, those coveted financial-services customers with at least $2 million to invest, are shifting assets from brokerages and large global banks to smaller, more conservative alternatives.

“For the first time in my career, I saw concern about the location of one’s assets,” said Robert Balentine, the head of Wilmington Trust Corp.‘s investment management group. “We’ve seen tangible evidence of very wealthy clients shifting assets out of brokerage firms in great numbers.”

Trust companies like Wilmington are benefiting from record subprime-infected losses at companies led by Zurich-based UBS AG, the world’s biggest money manager for the rich. UBS clients probably withdrew a net $39 billion during the past three months after the company reported more than $38 billion of writedowns and credit-market losses in the past year, London-based analysts at JPMorgan Chase & Co. estimate.

Clients may say “if UBS can’t manage its own capital, then what the hell are they going to do with mine?” said David Maude, a financial services consultant in Verona, Italy, who calls UBS the “Rolls Royce” of the industry. “It does tarnish their reputation, certainly.”

UBS contacted 2.5 million Swiss consumer and wealth- management customers last month after losing 11.5 billion francs ($10.9 billion) in the first quarter and seeing a net withdrawal of 12.8 billion francs in its asset and wealth-management units.

The company has responded with “proactive, ongoing communication” with clients, said Jim Pierce, co-head of UBS’s U.S. Wealth Management Advisory Group, in an e-mailed response to questions. UBS is “willing to have the difficult conversations,” Pierce said.

U.S. Market

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Apr 17

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about the Federal Reserve and the actions it has taken over the past few months. Many media pundits have been bending over backwards to praise the Fed for supposedly restoring stability to the market. This interpretation of the Fed’s actions couldn’t be further from the truth.

The current market crisis began because of Federal Reserve monetary policy during the early 2000s in which the Fed lowered the interest rate to a below-market rate. The artificially low rates led to overinvestment in housing and other malinvestments. When the first indications of market trouble began back in August of 2007, instead of holding back and allowing bad decision-makers to suffer the consequences of their actions, the Federal Reserve took aggressive, inflationary action to ensure that large Wall Street firms would not lose money. It began by lowering the discount rates, the rates of interest charged to banks who borrow directly from the Fed, and lengthening the terms of such loans. This eliminated much of the stigma from discount window borrowing and enabled troubled banks to come to the Fed directly for funding, pay only a slightly higher interest rate but also secure these loans for a period longer than just overnight. Continue reading »

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Mar 06

Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the US central bank, or Fed, has said that inflation rates in Gulf states, which are reaching near record levels, would fall “significantly” if oil producers dropped their US dollar pegs.

Speaking at an investment conference on Monday in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, he said the pegs restrict the region’s ability to control inflation by forcing them to duplicate US monetary policy at a time when the Fed is cutting rates to ward off an economic downturn.

Debate is rife in the Gulf on how to tackle inflation.

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Greenspan, right, says inflation rates in Gulf states will fall if they drop their US dollar pegs [AFP]

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Mar 06

The headquarters of the InvestmAbu Dhabient Authority. The authority has a high profile in the emirate, but its secrecy is drawing scrutiny in Washington. (Charles Crowell/Bloomberg News)

Abu Dhabi has about 9 percent of the world’s oil and 0.02 percent of its population. One result is a surfeit of petrodollars, much of which is funneled into a secretive, government-controlled investment fund that is helping to shift the balance of power in the financial world.

After decades in the shadows, the fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, is turning heads on Wall Street and in Washington by making high-profile investments in the United States and elsewhere.

Known as ADIA (pronounced ah-DEE-ah), the fund recently formed a small team that is now buying big stakes in Western companies. This unit masterminded ADIA’s $7.5 billion investment in Citigroup, the largest U.S. bank, in November. It has also taken a large position in Toll Brothers, one of America’s biggest home builders.

“There is an idea that Abu Dhabi should not be the underdog of the map,” said Frauke Heard-Bey, a historian who has written a book about the political emergence of the United Arab Emirates. “They have the money to buy companies that are ailing, and why should they not? Why not make a mark?”

ADIA is the largest of the world’s sovereign wealth funds, giant pools of money controlled by cash-rich governments, particularly in Asia and Middle East. But Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest of the seven Arab emirates, says little about its fund. Few outsiders know for sure where ADIA invests, or even how much money it controls. And secrecy breeds hyperbole; some estimates of the fund’s size exceed $1 trillion. Continue reading »

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