Buffett Watch

Warren Buffett to CNBC: "I Don't Care" If the Fed Cuts Rates

This is the transcript of the market/investment comments from Warren Buffett today in an interview with CNBC's Becky Quick on Power Lunch today.  (The headlines and a video clip are included in this Warren Buffett Watch post from just over an hour ago.)

Buffett did the interview to draw attention to a $128 million dollar gift to Pennsylvania's George School from the daughter of one of his mentors, David Dodd.  Details on that part of the story are in the WBW post Daughter of Buffett Mentor Gives $128M to Pennsylvania School from this morning.   (A transcript of his comments on the gift and philanthropy will be posted later today.)

Becky Quick: We have to ask you about the news of the day and the market. Everyone waiting to see what the Federal Reserve will do today. Do you think the Fed will cut 25 or 50 basis points today?

Warren Buffett: (Laughs strongly.) I represent a different view, maybe, than your other viewers. I don't think it makes any difference whatsoever to an investor in stocks what they do today. I don't care, I wouldn't care whether they raise the rate in terms of what I would do in stocks. If I knew exactly what they were going to do, I would not change a buy or a sell order that I have in.

You know, I might mention that when Dave Dodd came into my partnership with relatively small funds, nobody knew what the Fed was doing that day, or a week earlier or the week after.

The important thing in stocks is to buy a stock in a good business at a reasonable price.  Anybody that is buying or selling stocks based on what the Fed is doing, or what they think they're going to do at their next meeting, I think is destined to not having a great financial future.  It really doesn't have anything to do with the value of good companies 3, 5 years from now.  People who think they can dance in and out based on Fed signals, I think, they're going to make their brokers rich, but they're not going to make themselves rich.

BQ: Although, with everything happening with the credit crunch, we've certainly seen a lot of stocks come sharply down in price in terms of what we're seeing in the housing industry. Is that an area you've been looking at as a value investor?

WB: Well, I look at all businesses, Becky, and that's about all you'll get out of me.

BQ: Let me push you one more time.  You talk about you woundn't necessarily invest in stocks based on what the Fed does today, but what about the dollar? You've had bets against the dollar?

WB: Well, again, that would not be affected by what the Fed does today. That's affected by more fundamental problems in terms of the huge trade imbalance. Just a week or two ago, Bernanke said that the present current account deficit is unsustainable. And Greenspan said that 3 or 4 years ago. But the truth is, it goes on. So that's what counts in terms of the value of the dollar over time. Again, it will not depend on what the Fed does at this meeting or the next meeting or the meeting after that.

BQ: What do you think the markets look like right now just in terms of the credit crunch? Is that something you think is continuing to spread? Are things worse that we imagined or are they better than we imagined?

WB: Well, I don't know the answer to that. That has nothing to do with what stocks we buy. What has to do with the stocks we buy is what we think about the businesses and what they're selling for. And the less they sell for, the better I like it. Anytime anything gets cheaper, I like it better than I did the day before. (Laughs.)

BQ: I know you're not a Fed Governor, but there are a lot of people who are worried about inflation, especially watching oil prices as they've edged above $80, even above $81, recently. Is there a point at which you start worrying about inflation?

WB: I've worried about inflation every day since I learned about the phenomenon, 60 years ago. (Laughs.) It's always a danger, always a danger. It's never gone. It's always in remission, and question is how well do you do over time controlling it. But, the purchasing power of the dollar will go down over time.

BQ: And just in terms of oil prices above $80, do you think that's a concern for the economy or has it gotten to the point where it makes up a lesser and lesser part of our economy?

WB: Anything that you import, and we import maybe 11 million barrels a day of oil, so every time it goes up a dollar that's $11 million that goes out of the American economy that goes to somebody else around the world. And so, it's a tax on ... in effect, a higher oil price is a tax on the American economy. And that tax is not paid to the American government, it's paid to various entities around the world. So, it's always a negative. But, ah, I'll take a negative. We had higher prices than this adjusted (for inflation) 25 years ago. So, the economy can take it but it is a tax, and it comes right out of the American consumer's pocket and goes into the purchasing power of somebody in the Middle East.

Questions?  Comments?  Email me at buffettwatch@cnbc.com