The richest people on Earth became a bit poorer this year.
The world’s 400 wealthiest individuals shed $19 billion in 2015, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Falling commodities prices and signs of a slower-growing China spooked investors around the world leading to the first annual decline for the daily wealth index since its 2012 debut.
"After three great years, 2015 stock markets worry-wiggled sideways," said billionaire Ken Fisher, the founder of Fisher Investments that manages more than $65 billion. "Fears over an oil glut, soft consumer spending and China breaking like a plate and taking commodities with it saw investors take fright."
Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim was the biggest decliner on the index at the close of trading in New York on Dec. 28, as his America Movil SAB dropped 25 percent in 2015. The world’s richest person in May 2013, Slim fell to No. 5 this year after losing almost $20 billion as regulators ratcheted up efforts to break apart the business that controls the majority of Mexico’s landlines and mobile phones.
U.S. investor Warren Buffett, the world’s third-richest person, lost $11.3 billion as Berkshire Hathaway Inc. had its first negative annual return since 2011. Microsoft Corp. co- founder Bill Gates, the world’s richest person since May 2013, fell by $3 billion during the year.
Gates’s losses and the continued rise of Inditex SA, the world’s largest fashion retailer, lifted Spain’s Amancio Ortega within about $10 billion of the top slot. Ortega, Europe’s richest person since June 2012, leapfrogged Slim and Buffett as he rose $12.1 billion to $73.2 billion.
His 20 percent rise was still $19 billion short of the increase for the year’s top-gainer, Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos. The New Mexico-born billionaire more than doubled his fortune to $59 billion as investors cheered profits at the world’s largest online retailer. Bezos added $31 billion in 2015, undoing the $7.4 billion decline he had in 2014 and propelling him up 16 positions to No. 4 on the index.
The shifts at the top came as global stock markets swung from early-year increases to sharp declines in the later months, with the MSCI ACWI Index falling 3.8 percent by the end of trading on Dec. 28.