Wealthy Asians upbeat about economy and governments

Perhaps understandably, Asian high-net-worth individuals are more bullish about their prospects than their Western counterparts, according to a Barclays Wealth survey.
Wealthy Asians upbeat about economy and governments

It may not come as a huge surprise, but wealthy individuals based in the Asia-Pacific region -- with the notable exception of those in Japan -- are significantly more positive about the economic and investment outlook than those in, say, Europe or the US.

That is the conclusion of a Barclays Wealth survey, The Changing Wealth of Nations, which polled 2,000 HNWIs globally from February to March, of which 500 are based in the Asia-Pacific region.

Wealthy individuals based in emerging markets -- and particularly Asia-Pacific -- are much more optimistic about global economic prospects than those in the developed economies. Almost half (46.1%) of Asia-Pacific respondents feel the global economy will be stable, albeit with limited growth, over the next few years. That compares with 35.7% of global respondents.

Hong Kong and Singapore are particularly positive, both recording 57.8% of respondents taking this view. Interestingly, Indians (15.8%) are even more downbeat in their outlook than the Japanese (19%).

"There are great divergences in opinion on what the next decade will bring for the global economy," says Manpreet Gill, Asia strategist at Barclays Wealth. "Wealthy individuals in the US and Europe are notably more pessimistic than their peers in Asia, Latin America, South Africa and the Middle East, as well as the majority of professional economists [in those markets]."

Further divergence of opinion is also reflected in attitudes towards HNWIs' opinions of their respective governments. Asian respondents view their governments much more positively than their counterparts in the West. Nearly 9 out of 10 (88.2%) of Singapore respondents, 71.3% of Indian respondents and 63.7% of Hong Kong respondents say they continue to trust their government.

Only 17.4% of UK respondents and 36% of US respondents share the same view -- of course, it should be noted that this survey was conducted before the UK election took place last month.

Turning to the investment outlook, the survey focused mainly on equities and property in particular. Singaporeans are the most optimistic on property, with around 90% believing it will perform well in the coming year as an asset class. Australians, Indians and Saudi Arabians -- and most Asia-Pacific respondents generally -- are also very bullish.

Japan is one clear exception -- only 15% of respondents there believe property will perform quite well or very well in the next 12 months, while around 70% say it will perform quite poorly or very poorly. Only those surveyed in Ireland, Spain and the UAE are more pessimistic.

Globally, half of respondents say property will perform quite or very well over the next year. Their outlook becomes more positive when they are asked how property will perform in the next five years, with 66% answering quite well or very well. That's largely down to a far more bullish response from European countries in respect of the longer-time horizon.

It's a similar story for equities, with Spain, Japan and the UAE the most pessimistic over how the asset class will perform in the coming year. The most upbeat are Australia, India, Latin America, Singapore, South Africa and Switzerland.

However, HNWIs globally have a far more positive outlook for equities over five years, with 66% saying they will perform quite well or very well in that time span, as against 47% that say the same about the asset class over the coming 12 months.

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