Number of U.S. millionaires falls by a quarter

NEW YORK Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:20pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of American millionaires fell by more than a quarter last year as the financial crisis decimated their investments across the board, a report said on Wednesday.

The number of U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million or more, not including first homes, fell by 2.5 million to 6.7 million in 2008, according to the Spectrem Group report.

After the 27 percent drop, the number of millionaires is at the lowest level since 2003, when the millionaire population stood at 6.2 million, the report says.

The S&P 500 stock index has lost over half its value since the stock market peaked in October 2007, wiping billions from savings, while wealthy households have also been hit by declines in the value of other assets such as property.

From the housing market peak in the second quarter of 2006, home prices have plummeted 26.7 percent through December, according to Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index.

The report also shows that the number of U.S. households with a net worth over $5 million, again not including first homes, fell by 28 percent to 840,000.

"America has a lot fewer millionaires than when this economic crisis began," said George H. Walper Jr., President of Spectrem Group.

"The culprit is not just the stock market, which we all know has dropped precipitously, but broad declines in the asset classes available to the nation's wealthiest investors."

More modest households with net worth of $500,000 or more fell to 11.3 million last year from 15.7 million in 2007, a decline of 28 percent.

The Spectrem report is based on surveys of 3,000 affluent households conducted throughout 2008 and data from an online survey of 750 millionaire households conducted in November and December 2008.

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