Image: Money © Corbis

The next American wealth boom has begun.

It may not feel like it for many Americans, but with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) recently breaching the 14,000 benchmark (before falling back slightly this week), shareholders and investors have recovered the more than $8 trillion in wealth lost during the recession, attaining a level of paper wealth last seen in the Roaring Oughts.

The stock market has gone from wealth destroyer to the nation's largest manufacturer of new millionaires and billionaires.

The market moves are creating a new, virtuous cycle of confidence for the wealthy, although some remain scarred by the memory of the market's dive following the financial crisis. 

A new survey shows that millionaire confidence in the economy has hit the highest level in two years, led by their bullishness on the economy and corporate earnings.

The big questions now are what the next Gilded Age will look like, who will benefit and how long the market-fueled prosperity will last.

According to Spectrem Group, a wealth research firm, about 9 million American households have investible assets of $1 million or more. Figures for 2012 haven't been released, but George Walper, the president of Spectrem Group, expects 2012 and 2013 to approach, or even match, the all-time high of 9.2 million households, established in 2007.

"I don't think it will go much beyond the all-time high because real estate prices have not fully recovered," Walper said.

He added that after the tax rates for the wealthy were set in January, "they had a lot more confidence in how to plan and move forward."

The population of individual millionaires (as opposed to households) rebounded to its all-time high two years ago.

According to Capgemini, there were 3.35 million millionaires in North America in 2011, up from 3.2 million in 2007. Their total wealth in 2011 was just shy of the 2007 peak, at $11.7 trillion.

Other measures show a similar resurgence of wealth at the top. The total wealth of the Forbes 400 hit $1.7 trillion in 2012, topping the previous record of $1.58 trillion in 2008. The average net worth of individuals on the Forbes list topped $4.2 billion -- the highest ever.

There has been a reshuffling in the world of wealth. According to the Federal Reserve, the ranks of the wealthiest 1% saw a turnover of more than one-third between 2007 and 2009, meaning that a third of them fell off and were replaced.

Billionaires including hedge fund manager Phil Falcone, real-estate tycoon Tim Blixseth and former banking chief Sandy Weill fell off the Forbes list, while Facebook's (FB) Mark Zuckerberg, Under Armour's (UA) Kevin Plank and Spanx founder Sara Blakely burst on to the list after 2008.

Other members of the 1% are returning after earlier collapses. Whether it's Sheldon Adelson, the casino king who lost more than 90% of his paper fortune then earned it back, or Netflix (NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings, who saw his fortune more than triple in recent weeks, the stock market is restoring massive amounts of wealth.

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