Buffett Watch

Is China's Stock Market a "Bubble?"


CNBC's Becky Quick traveled exclusively with Warren Buffett on a whirlwind tour of China and South Korea.  All this morning on Squawk Box, she is reporting in-depth on the trip and what it tells us about Buffett's investment philosophy.

In this excerpt of a sit-down interview in China with Becky, Buffett talks about whether China is in a "bubble" and whether free trade is helping or hurting the United States.

Buffett on China

Warren: It blows me away. We've been driving, I don't know how many miles, and it is just one plant, one new plant, after another.  You know, every name in the world and you know they are, I've never seen so much industrial activity, particularly that has been developed that recently in a place like this.  It is dramatic.

Becky: I know a lot of times today people have asked you questions,  'What do you think of the Chinese stock market?'  I know that you think it's a bubble but when you see stuff like this does it make you ...

Warren: I don't know if it's a bubble, but it's gone up an awful lot and I'm suspicious. I would  be very skeptical that you could find lot of bargains in a market that's moved as much as the Chinese market, but I really haven't looked at the individual stocks at all. There's no question that this economy is booming like we haven't seen in the United States for a very,very long time, if ever.

Becky: Right now, this is the first factory for Iscar in China. How big is this market going to be down the road?

Warren: (Laughs.) It will be huge, Becky. I don't know how big it will be but you have all of these companies that use our type of product, cutting tools. And, you know, it would be crazy not to be here.

Becky: Does the weak dollar have any impact down the road on the kind of investments that you can put in other countries?

Warren: In balance, the weak dollar is going to cause tensions. The weak dollar is a product of the current account deficit and other things. The weak dollar is what's on the thermometer but it's not the illness.

Becky: Several polls recently have shown that protectionism is on the rise, that there are major parts of both political parties who think that free trade didn't really work out.

Warren: Well, our problem is that we export 11% of our GDP and we import 17%, so the 11% we export is real trade and then we have this 6% on top of it that is unilateral.  But that has nothing to do with China, I mean, you can attribute it to oil costs, you can do all sorts of things. We do have a problem with the imbalance that exists and that should be addressed, in my view, not by attacking any particular country, not by attacking any particular products, but I do think we have to come up with something so that our current account deficit gets reduced. But that's not China's fault. That's the U.S.'s fault.

Becky: That's not China's fault, but there would be people that would say that China does not have a completely free and open market. You said yourself you can't buy an entire insurance company when you come over here.  You can't even have a 25% stake.

Warren: No, but we said that other countries couldn't own our ports and we said that the Chinese couldn't buy Unocal a couple of few years ago, so we have it ourselves.

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