SINGAPORE: The number of millionaires living in Asia Pacific equalled the total recorded in Europe for the first time last year, a trend likely to further increase the area's appeal to luxury brands.

According to Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Capgemini, the density of individuals with at least $1 million (€810k; £660k) of investable assets in Asia Pacific jumped by 26% to three million in 2009.

This matched the figure registered in Europe and came close to overtaking North America, which delivered an overall score of 3.1 million on this measure.

More specifically, millionaires based in Asia Pacific, which is home to 60% of the world's population and its two fastest-growing economies – India and China – boosted their combined assets by 31% to $9. 7tr.

Among the factors working in favour of this region are impressive levels or wealth creation, rising interest on the part of multinational corporations and the rapid expansion of many local businesses.

Ong Yeng Fang, Merrill Lynch's managing director for Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, said the scale of Europe's debt crisis meant there was "a very high possibility" that Asia is likely to gain further ground.

The amount of millionaire households, or those with at least $1m in investable assets excluding primary residences, leapt to ten million globally from 8.6 million a year earlier, the report concluded.

North America's millionaire population grew by 17%, the second-biggest uptick behind that generated in Asia Pacific.

"High net worth investors have emerged more cautious and conservative, but they have emerged," Lyle LaMothe, head of US wealth management for Merrill Lynch global wealth management, said.

Data sourced from Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff