The richest person in the world is getting richer, even in the midst of a pandemic, and perhaps because of it. Consumers trapped at home rely more than ever on Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.com Inc. The retailer’s shares rose 5.3% to a record Tuesday, raising its founder’s net worth to $ 138.5 billion.
The pandemic brought the world economy almost to a standstill and has pushed millions of people out of unemployment within three weeks. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. said Tuesday that loan losses fueled by unprecedented job cuts – many of them in the retail sector that Amazon changed so efficiently – could rival those seen after the 2008 financial crisis.
However, Bezos and many of his tech-rich peers, private equity and elsewhere are doing well, helped by unprecedented stimulus efforts by governments and central banks. While the combined net worth of the world’s 500 richest people is down $ 553 billion this year, it is up 20% from its March 23 low, according to him Bloomberg Billionaires Index
“The wealth gap will only widen with what is happening now,” says Matt Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak + Co. “Really wealthy people have not had to worry. Yes, they are less wealthy, but they have not had to worry about putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their head. “
It’s not just billionaires. Corporate experts have been major buyers of their companies’ shares, a sign of confidence that the crisis will pass.
According Sundial Capital Research, the volume of transactions in the most affected industries, from travel to healthcare and gaming, suggests that executives and directors are more optimistic than most other points in the last decade. The board member of Carnival Corp. Randall Weisenburger bought $ 10 million in shares of the struggling cruise line operator last week. The shares are up 56% since the purchase.
Others go further to maximize returns. UBS Group AG sees ultra-wealthy clients increase loans to place more bets on what they see as a cheap market. Mortgage brokers for the wealthy have said more clients are looking for real estate-backed loans to help them pay off other debts, invest in businesses, and recover other assets.
There have been massive losers among the wealthy set. Many in the oil and gas industry have been hit by the collapse of oil prices. Billionaires in emerging markets are not reaping the same rewards as in the US, and there have been margin calls and forced sales.
But there were also notable gains.
Leading the group is Bezos, who has added nearly $ 24 billion to his fortune in 2020, as well as MacKenzie Bezos, who was left with a 4% stake in Amazon as part of the couple’s recent divorce settlement. Her net worth has risen from $ 8.2 billion to $ 45.3 billion, and she is now 18th in Bloomberg’s wealth ranking, ahead of Mukesh Ambani, the wealthiest person in India, and Mexico’s Carlos Slim.
Shares of its retail rival Walmart Inc. have also advanced, increasing the fortune of the world’s richest family. Alicia, Jim and Rob Walton now have a combined net worth of $ 169 billion, an increase of nearly 5% from the start of the year.
Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk has added $ 10.4 billion to his fortune this year, more than anyone except Bezos.
The fortune of Zoom Video Communications Inc. founder Eric Yuan has more than doubled to $ 7.4 billion, as demand for his teleconferencing service exploded as a result of confinements caused by the pandemic.
“The unfair thing about it is who is going to benefit the most from that,” says Maley. “Money makes money.”