The billionaire boom: how the super-rich soaked up Covid cash

Easy money pouring out of central banks is a key driver behind this surge in fortunes, and the resulting wealth inequality. In recent decades, as the global population of billionaires rose more than fivefold and the largest fortunes rocketed past $100 billion, I started tracking this wealth. Rising inequality was threatening to provoke popular backlashes against capitalism itself. The pandemic has reinforced this trend. As the virus spread, central banks injected $9 trillion into economies worldwide, aiming to keep growth alive. Much of that stimulus went into financial markets, and from there into the net worth of the ultra-rich. The total wealth of billionaires worldwide rose by $5 trillion to $13 trillion in 12 months, the most dramatic surge ever registered on the annual list compiled by Forbes magazine. The billionaire population boomed as well. On the 2021 Forbes list, which runs to April 6, their numbers rose nearly 700 to more than 2,700. The biggest surge came in China, which added 238 billionaires – one every 36 hours – for a total of 626. Next came the US, which added 110 for a total of 724. India added 38 for a total of 140, and has surpassed Russia for the third largest population of billionaires in the world. The fundamental driver of the market and thus the billionaire boom: easy money pouring out of central banks. Wealth inequality is likely to continue widening until the monetary spigots are turned off.

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