NEW YORK -- As emerging stock markets surged during the past year, 102 wealthy people around the world won a much-coveted title along with their stellar gains -- they all became billionaires. But tepid returns in the United States ate into the fortunes of some of the richest Americans, including the founding family of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The number of billionaires around the world rose by 102 to a record 793 over the past year, and their combined wealth grew 18 percent to $2.6 trillion, according to Forbes magazine's 2006 rankings of the world's richest people.
Forbes editor Luisa Kroll noted that Russia's stock market jumped 108 percent between February 2005 and February 2006, while India's market rose by more than 54 percent during the same period. Brazil ''was another bright star" with a market gain of 38 percent, she said.
Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates was again the world's richest man for the 12th year running. Gates grew wealthier, with his net worth rising to $50 billion from $46.5 billion. Investor Warren Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., again ranked second, but his fortune fell by $2 billion to $42 billion.