The global reach and importance of the Spanish language accounts for 16 percent of Spain's gross domestic product, according to a new study by the Telefonica Foundation presented in New York.

In the latest of a series on "The economic value of Spanish: A multinational enterprise," the authors call the language of Cervantes the most valuable intangible asset that Spain's economy possesses.

The study, headed by professors Jose Luis Garcia Delgado, Jose Antonio Alonso and Juan Carlos Jimenez, said the purchasing power of the world's 450 million Spanish-speakers represents 9 percent of global economic output and that speaking Spanish in the United States means a "salary premium" of 30 percent for the speaker.

The great challenge for Spanish, the report says, is to continue gaining ground in the United States, where it is already the second language; in Brazil, where the teaching of it in the educational system has government support; in Europe, where it is the second-most-important foreign language; and in Asia, via the rapid increase in the demand for learning and using Spanish in China.

Spanish is the world's third-most-widely-spoken language with a majority presence in the Americas, where more than 85 percent of Spanish-speakers live.

Meanwhile, the largest contingent of native Spanish-speakers outside the Hispanic world is in the United States, which is the world's fourth-largest country in terms of numbers of Spanish-speakers, after Mexico, Colombia and Spain, with about 50 million people, more than 16 percent of its population.

The study was presented at the headquarters of the Cervantes Institute in New York.