Allianz Global Wealth Report 2014

Today, Allianz unveiled the fifth edition of its "Global Wealth Report", which puts the asset and debt situation of private households in more than 50 countries under the microscope. Based on the findings of the report, the global gross financial assets of private households grew by 9.9 percent in 2013, the highest rate of growth since 2003. This brought total global financial assets up to a new record level of EUR 118 trillion. Growth was driven by the exceptional stock market performance witnessed in Japan, the US and Europe: assets held as securities gained 16.5 percent - even more than in the years immediately prior to the outbreak of the financial crisis. This is not, however, testimony to a sudden rediscovered passion for equities among savers. The US was the only region in which a substantial volume of fresh funds was pumped into shares or other securities. Europeans, in particular, continued to pull their money out of this asset class. 

Not all regions were able to benefit from the strong growth witnessed last year to the same extent. On the emerging markets, particularly in Latin America, asset growth slowed due to the turbulence on the local capital and currency markets. By contrast, growth picked up speed in North America (+11.7 percent), Japan (+6.1 percent) and also in western Europe (+5.2 percent). This did not, however, prevent western Europe from falling behind Japan last year and coming bottom of the growth league in 2013, with its chunk of global financial assets shrinking by 1.2 percentage points. In a long-term comparison, too, western Europe is at risk of being sucked into a vortex, at least if we look at developments in real terms, i.e. less the rate of inflation: from this angle, per capita asset growth slips back to 1 percent a year since the end of 2000 - which still puts it behind Japan (1.3 percent p.a.). "In an environment characterized by extremely low interest rates, deflation isn't the biggest problem facing savers", said Michael Heise, Chief Economist at Allianz. "The low inflation rates in Europe reflect necessary real economic adjustments and are boosting citizens' purchasing power. They do not justify any further easing of monetary policy."


In actual fact, the ECB's policy is already having a real impact on households in the eurozone. The low interest rates are not only hindering long-term asset accumulation, but are also having a direct impact on income in the form of lost interest income and reduced interest payments on loans. A hypothetical calculation based on the average interest rate level for the period from 2003 to 2008 can be used to put a figure on these income effects. All in all, German households, with their relatively low levels of debt, are left with substantial losses for the period from 2010 to 2014: the "interest rate losses" add up to just under EUR 23 billion or around EUR 280 per capita. The biggest winners, on the other hand, are primarily the southern Europeans, who have benefited from "interest rate gains" of more than EUR 1,000 per capita on average over this five-year period. "It is not surprising that monetary policy has had this effect", said Heise. "The strain that has been taken off debtors in southern Europe, in particular, is very much in keeping with what was intended. But it is important not to lose sight of the side effects of the policy, especially for German investors and their retirement savings."

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