Buffett: 'No Question' Global Economy Is Slowing
Warren Buffett tells CNBC there's "no question" the global economy is slowing, but the U.S. is "inching ahead" and doing better than Europe.
He also sees a turn for residential housing in the U.S., and as it improves, Berkshire Hathaway's housing-related companies will benefit. "We're selling a lot of furniture and carpet" right now, he said Wednesday on "Squawk Box."
Some of those Berkshire subsidiaries are already seeing double-digit increases in business.
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Buffett also told CNBC's Becky Quick that he feels "great" after concluding a series of radiation treatments this summer for prostate cancer. He said he was also given some hormones, so "occasionally I get some hot flashes. We males call those power surges, actually."
While the treatments didn't cause any pain, they did "get tiring after a while." He joked that he felt "it was time to quit when he got the urge to pee sitting down."
Buffett revealed that he's bought some more shares of Wells Fargo in the past week, taking advantage of its price decline. Over the past month, the bank's stock is down just over 3 percent.
As of June 30, Berkshire reported it held over 411 million shares worth almost $14 billion. Buffett joked that it wasn't enough, so he bought more.
Buffett thinks banks are "still a good business," but they won't get back to the returns on equity they had before the credit crisis.
Buffett said he's "salivating" at the prospect of buying some companies after two potential $20 billion acquisitions fell through earlier this year over disagreements on price. Berkshire has $40 billion in cash on hand, but prices are difficult right now, he said, and Berkshire won't get into bidding wars.
He's planning to look at the financials of a $6 billion company he's been offered, but he didn't name that potential acquisition.
He repeated his long-held belief that the stock market is the best place to put your money and expressed confidence in IBM's long-term prospects. Last year, Berkshire bought almost $11 billion worth of IBM stock, and Buffett said it has continued to add to that position this year.
As for Procter & Gamble, another big Berkshire holding, Buffett conceded that earnings in recent years have been disappointing. But Buffett called Chairman and CEO Bob McDonald a "terrific human being." McDonald's leadership has been publicly criticized in recent days.
"The jury is out right now" on the company, he said. Buffett revealed Berkshire had sold some P&G shares "on valuation."
Buffett gave a strong endorsement to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for a third term, saying he's done an "absolutely superb job" and there's no one else he would prefer in the post. Buffett thinks Bernanke would stay if asked by the president.
Still, Buffett said he gets a "little worried about continuously expanding" the Fed's balance sheet. He said his "instinct" is to oppose the Fed's QE3 stimulus program.
While he thinks there's a "pretty fair chance" the U.S. may go off the "fiscal cliff" (learn more) for a "short time," he said "everyone knows" what has to be done generally to fix the nation's debt problem and Congress just needs to get the job done.
Interviewed in Columbus, Ohio, Buffett acknowledged that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney got a big boost from the first debate because it gave him a "second chance to make a first impression." He predicted the election could come down to "who has the better ground game right here in Ohio" to get out the vote.
No matter who is elected president, however, Buffett predicted the economy will improve over the next four years.
Buffett spoke before addressing GE Capital's National Middle Market Summit at Ohio State's Fisher College of Business.
(General Electric is a minority owner of NBCUniversal, CNBC's parent.)
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