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Warren Buffett is famously optimistic, but his view of the U.S. stock market long term is more conservative than it might suggest.
At a party for Forbes magazine's centennial earlier this week, Buffett said the Dow Jones industrial average will be over 1 million in 100 years, up from 22,397 currently (which is near a record, by the way).
The 87-year-old acknowledged there's a strong likelihood he won't be around to take a victory lap on his prediction, but he also said it isn't unreasonable.
He pointed out the Dow was at 81 a century ago. It was first created in the late 1890s to represent a basket of 30 big American companies.
But Buffett's value-investing fellow billionaire, Mario Gabelli, joked on Twitter about whether Buffett's normally sunny outlook had darkened given the numbers. "one million in one hundred years ...has Buffett turned bearish?" Gabelli said in a tweet Thursday.
Contacted for further comment, Gabelli left a voicemail for CNBC saying he was "just having some fun" with numbers, but added the roughly 3.9 percent compound annual growth rate needed to get from where the Dow is today to where Buffett predicts it will be in 2117 would be lower than the 5.5 percent CAGR from the beginning of the 20th century until now.
"Warren is always looking out long term," Gabelli said. "I'm assuming Warren was just having some fun."
Buffett spoke and performed on Tuesday at the Forbes party, noting that about 1,500 people had made the magazine's list of richest Americans (including himself).
"Being short America has been a loser's game. I predict to you it will continue to be a loser's game," he said. None of them, he said, had bet against U.S. growth. "It has been 241 years since Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence," Buffett said. "Being short America has been a loser's game. I predict to you it will continue to be a loser's game."