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Swiss are no longer the richest in the world

In a photo finish, Switzerland has been knocked off its throne as the world’s richest country by the United States, according to the Global Wealth Report 2016, released on Wednesday by insurer Allianz.

Don’t feel too sorry for the Swiss though. Net financial assets per capita (private wealth) in Switzerland were €175,720 (CHF201,100) last year. Despite increasing by 2.7% on 2015, this wasn’t enough to hold off a late rally by the US, which increased 5.8% to €177,210.

“As well as the systematic restructuring of their balance sheets, the Americans benefited last year from the strength of the US dollar against the euro,” the report noted. Both countries are almost double the runner-up, Japan, on €96,890.

However, when it comes to gross per capita financial assets, Switzerland remains at the top on €268,840, comfortably ahead of the US on €221,690.

“Last year’s good performance owed a lot to the year-end rally on stock markets, in particular in industrialised countries. Almost 70% of asset growth last year was attributable to changes in the value of portfolios, only 30% was due to original savings; the year before, it was the other way round,” Allianz said in a statement on Wednesday.

Debt threat

Global household liabilities increased by 5.5% in 2016, the highest rate of growth since 2007.

Debt levels show significant differences between individual countries, the authors said. Per capita debt, for example, ranges from an average of €10,220 in Greece to €93,120 in Switzerland.

“The gap between these two countries has widened from around €65,000 to almost €83,000 since the outbreak of the [global financial] crisis,” they wrote.

“While Greek households have corrected their ‘excessive debts’ from the years prior to the crisis and reduced their liabilities by an average of 0.8% per year, the outstanding debt volume of Swiss households has continued to grow by an average of 3.4% per year.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ts