Shanghai, Singapore overtake Hong Kong in Asia’s most expensive city rankings

Asia’s most expensive city for high net worth individuals is no longer Hong Kong.

Both Shanghai and Singapore have overtaken it, with property costs alone pushing it beyond capital cities across the region.

Wealth Report Asia, published annually by financial services company Julius Baer, measures the price of a basket of items including property prices, a degustation dinner, cars, a piano, wine, jewellery and even botox.

Asian cities chart

Shanghai is now Asia’s most expensive city to buy six of the 22 items Julius Baer surveys (a hospital room, watch, handbag, wine, jewellery and skin cream). In addition, it has grown more pricey on a relative basis to buy property (from fifth to fourth most expensive), and legal fees have lept from 10th to second.

Singapore is the most expensive city to buy a car or a degustation dinner, and ranks in the middle of the list on every other item, its best result eighth for a piano.

Property prices and business class air fares have skewed Hong Kong’s position on the list – they are more expensive there than elsewhere. But in contrast, Hong Kong is cheapest city to buy skin cream, the second cheapest for wine and jewellery and the fourth cheapest for men’s suits, womens shoes and watches.

The region’s least expensive city is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital. According to Julius Baer, it is the most competitive city to buy property, wine, jewellery, a piano and cigars or to rent a hotel suite.

Price deflation of items onshore such as legal fees (down four spots) and jewellery (down three spots) offset a recovery in the value of the ringgit against the US dollar.

The data was calculated on a price-weighted basis.  

Chinese luxury consumption slowing

Meanwhile, the report says the “China express” driving the world’s luxury retail market is slowing.

Chinese nationals accounted for just 2 per cent of luxury spending in 2003 yet by last year that share had soared to 32 per cent – and they account for more than 70 per cent of global growth.

But Julius Baer says recent signs “are pointing to an outlook that will be less spectacular”.

“Amid the ongoing trade conflict with the US and a softening growth dynamic, the Chinese stock market has come under significant selling pressure this year. Chinese consumer confidence, which has been a good leading indicator for luxury goods performance trends, appears to have rolled over.

The weakness in Chinese consumer confidence has weighed on the sector of late, and is likely to remain a drag going forward if Chinese consumption trends continue to slow.”

The report also noted that Chinese retail sales growth has also been moderating in recent months.

“We believe China is going through a self-induced slowdown as the economy transforms from investment-led to consumption-led growth. Reforms are currently taking a back seat in favour of selective and measured easing but [we] still expect 6.5 per cent growth this year, before a slowdown to 6.2 per cent next year.

“Following a strong recovery since 2015, it is reasonable to expect global luxury consumption to slow in the near-term from a high base and moderating Chinese demand. Yet we remain upbeat in the longer term premised on structural growing demand from Chinese millennials and a more prominent female presence in the luxury market.”

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