THIS IS THE FIFTH PART OF A TRANSCRIPT OF WARREN BUFFETT'S SERIES OF LIVE APPEARANCES THIS MORNING (MONDAY, MARCH 3) ON CNBC'S SQUAWK BOX.
STEVE LIESMAN: And one bright spot: While Wall Street, they're panicked over the credit crunch, three quarters of Americans say, `Credit crunch? What credit crunch?' They're reporting no trouble getting a loan, and that is unchanged from our survey in October. And just 16 percent of Americans say they have a lot of debt. So while the economic pundits may worry about American debt levels, Americans themselves aren't too concerned. Who better to ask about this than Warren Buffett? Good morning, Mr. Buffett. Steve Liesman here.
BUFFETT: Hi, Steve.
LIESMAN: So let me ask you what this means from a stock market perspective when we find such tremendously widespread negative attitudes. Does that signal a buying opportunity to you?
BUFFETT: Well, at some point it will. I--but I don't buy based on what I really think the market will do in the next, you know, month, six months or a year. If things--if I buy something at an attractive price, I don't care what the stock does. You know, if I buy a farm, I don't get a quote on it every day. If I buy an apartment house, I don't get a quote on it every day. And if I buy a stock, I want it to be a stock that I'm happy owning. If they close the stock market for a couple of years--they--back in 1914 they did close the stock market for many months and, you know, it's what the business does over time that's going to determine how I do. So I don't really--I don't try and time stock prices, I try to price stock prices. And it is true--and there's a lot of negative sentiment around--I'm more likely to find good things to buy than if everybody's in a very bullish mood.
LIESMAN: Is that one of the...
QUICK: So, Warren, that actually...
LIESMAN: Go ahead, Becky.
QUICK: Go ahead, Steve, I'm sorry.
LIESMAN: No, I was going to say, is that one of those times right now? Are you finding more things to buy in the stock market, and are those negative attitudes helping depress prices and creating buying opportunities for you?
BUFFETT: I'm--certainly I find more things to look at now than I did six months or a year ago. But I would say that it's changed more dramatically in the fixed income market than it has in the equity market, so that I may--that may be where I find the opportunities.
LIESMAN: Warren, one...
BUFFETT: You just--you go to work every--you go to work every day and you just look at--the nice thing about securities is that they change in price every day, and you don't have to pay any attention to it except if you--if you have borrowed money, it can--somebody pays a lot of attention to it. Or if you have fresh money to invest you--you know, when you get--when you find something you like at the right price, you buy it, and you don't think about whether it's going to go up or down next week or next month.
LIESMAN: One of the most striking things in this poll is for the first time--we've done this for four quarters now--Americans now look for a decline in their home values. What's the significance of that from an economic point of view, Mr. Buffett?
CNBC has scheduled a one-hour special program on Buffett's unprecedented Squawk Box appearences.
It's called Warren Buffett - The Billionaire Next Door: Face to Face. It will be hosted by Becky Quick and airs tonight, Monday, March 3 at 9pm ET.
BUFFETT: Well, it has a huge effect because, you know, with 60 percent-plus of the American people being homeowners, as being a huge asset--and in many cases it's a leverage asset--it obviously is going to be on their mind big time. And I get the figures every month. We have a number of real estate brokerage operations around the country, and I get the--I get the figures from many markets on listings and sales, and I've seen something like Dade and Broward County go from 6,000 listings and 3600 sales a month to where they're now, I think, 82,000 listings and about 1500 sales a month. So unless there's some major intervention by the government in some way, or something of the sort, home prices have not stopped going down. Now, they will at some point.
QUICK: Any of the intervention plans we've seen from the government strike you as being a good idea?
BUFFETT: Well, that--I haven't seen the details on many of them, but I think it's very hard to start interfering with markets without having a whole lot of unintended consequences.