Global Wealth: Asset Inflation Decouples the Rich from GDP


world, According to McKinsey, has never been so rich. Planet Earth, even devastated by pandemics and lockdowns, will continue to knock the checkout counters. Adding up the value of real assets (buildings, machinery, etc.) and financial assets in the 10 largest countries, the global balance sheet is 1,540 tonnes.

That’s a four-fold increase from 2000, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, an arm of the management consulting firm. After deducting debt, this wealth is equivalent to about 6 times GDP, which is also significantly higher than 4.5 times 20 years ago.

Where does the new wealth come from? Unsurprisingly, the two largest countries brought the bulk of the net worth growth: half from China and nearly a quarter from the United States. Economist Thomas Piketty is right: at the household level, the rich are getting richer. The richest 10 percent of people in both countries own more than two-thirds of their wealth. In the self-proclaimed capitalist United States, the bottom half received only 1.5 percent; in China, which pursues “common prosperity,” the comparable figure in 2015 was 6 percent.

Household wealth is roughly equal between real estate and financial assets such as savings and stocks. But there are huge differences: France and Australia favor land and buildings; Americans’ pensions and stocks. Japanese have never lost yen on deposits, which account for more than a third of total household assets.

These portfolios pushed the net worth of the household sector from 4.2 times GDP in 2000 to 5.8 times last year. Low interest rates and easy money have also helped.

MGI believes that rising asset prices have broken the traditional link between GDP growth and net worth growth. The former underperformed in advanced economies. Savings search value ends up in real estate, making up two-thirds of net worth.

The expected end of easy money should help bring GDP and net assets back closer to synchronization. Signals from the bond market and falling asset prices in China point to the correction. That might tire the wealthy in the short term — but it’s good for them on a political level. Profiting from state economic support is not a popular get-rich-quick strategy, however unintentionally pursued.

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