The number of millionaire households in the U.S. rose for the second straight year in 2010, to 8.4 million, according to the latest report by Spectrem, a Chicago consulting group.
After dropping by 27 percent in 2008, the millionaire population has been increasing for two straight years, by 16 percent in 2009 and 8 percent in 2010. It peaked in 2007 at 9.2 million.
The ultra-rich, those with $5 million or more, also saw their numbers increase 8 percent in 2010 to 1.06 million households. Even the merely affluent households, those with $500,000 or more, increased 6 percent to 13.5 million last year. All in all, a nice trend for the wealthy, but where does that leave the majority of the U.S.?
The stock market performance, of course, is the reason for most of the gains in wealth. Despite the setbacks led by crises in the Mideast and Japan, the market has recovered faster since the recession than the housing market, where most of the middle class has its money. With the continuation of the Bush tax cuts, the wealthy are able to put more of the money that would have gone to taxes to work in the market.
As the wealthy continue to spend and invest, that will provide a lift for the economy, but the big question is, how much weight can they pull, and how much impact will it have before the middle class can begin spending again?
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