The number of individuals world-wide with net financial assets, excluding their primary residence and consumables, of more than $1 million increased 6.5% in 2005, according to the 10th Anniversary Edition of the World Wealth Report from Merrill Lynch and Capgemini. The 8.7 million people considered to be high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) have combined assets totaling more than $33 trillion.

The report noted that 2005 marked the first time in three years that growth of the high-net-worth individuals in the U.S. failed to outpace the previous year (6.8% in 2005 vs. 9.9% in 2004).

“Real GDP growth and market capitalization were the two main drivers of wealth creation, making 2005 a year of robust but accelerating growth for some regions, following two consecutive years of strong global performance,” noted Robert McCann, vice chairman and president of Merrill Lynch’s Global Private Client Group.

Growth of the HNWI population was particularly pronounced in South Korea (21.3%), India (19.3%), Russia (17.4%) and South Africa (15.9%).

The report also noted that while North America remains the world’s most popular region for investment, in 2004 HNWIs demonstrated a lack of confidence in the U.S. dollar and cut back on their investments here. The report predicted that trend will continue in the coming years.