World's wealthiest lose $26bn as fiscal cliff nears

The 100 wealthiest people on the planet lost $26.1 billion from their collective net worth this week as global markets fell amid concern about the United States s so- called fiscal cliff and Europe's debt crisis.

Microsoft Corp (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates, 57, lost US$1.8 billion as shares of the world’s largest software maker retreated 8 percent during the week. The Redmond, Washington- based company replaced its Windows division chief Steven Sinofsky on Wednesday, less than a month after the release of Windows 8. Gates, the world's second-richest man, is worth $60.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

"Investors got buried under global headlines," Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Harris Private Bank in Chicago, which oversees about $60 billion of assets, said in a phone interview. “Anything with an international growth bias got hammered."

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (SPY) has dropped 4.8% since US President Barack Obama was re-elected on Nov 6th. He met with congressional leaders Friday to discuss the fiscal cliff, a collection of $607 billion in tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect next year. House Speaker John Boehner said the budget talks were constructive and he would accept an increase in government revenue if coupled with spending cuts.

The euro-area economy contracted 0.1% in the third quarter, slipping into recession for the second time in four years, a Luxembourg-based statistics office said Thursday.

The S&P 500 lost 1.45% during the week to close at 1359.88 in New York. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped 2.74%, closing at 262.86.

Slim, Ortega

Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim, 72, remains the richest person in the world, with a fortune of $70.6 billion, down $1.2 billion during the week.

Europe's richest man, Amancio Ortega, the 76-year-old founder of Inditex SA (ITX), the world's biggest clothing retailer and owner of the Zara clothing chain, is No 3 on the list with a net worth of $51.7 billion, $5.5 billion ahead of Warren Buffett, 82.

Mark Zuckerberg, 28, CEO and co-founder of Facebook Inc. (FB), added $2.2 billion to his fortune after the world’s biggest social networking site lifted restrictions on 804 million shares held by former employees and those who sold at the initial public offering, almost doubling the total available to the public. Facebook stock gained 22.7% for the week. Zuckerberg ranks 72nd on the index with a net worth of $12 billion.

Fallen Apple

Laurene Powell Jobs, the 49-year-old widow of Apple Inc (AAPL) co-founder Steve Jobs, is no longer among the 100 richest people in the world. Apple shares have fallen 24.5% since hitting their all-time high eight weeks ago. Her net worth is $9.7 billion.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index takes measure of the world's wealthiest people based on market and economic changes and Bloomberg News reporting. Each net worth figure is updated every business day at 5.30pm in New York. The valuations are listed in US dollars.

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