Warren Buffett Sees "Fairly Significant" Chance U.S. Going Into Recession


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 reported in-depth on the trip and what it tells us about Buffett's investment philosophy.

In this excerpt from an interview with Buffett on the return flight to the United States, he talks about the probability of a near-term recession in the United States and why he's a bull on "mankind's long-term possibilities."

Warren: Well, the takeaway is that both of those countries (China and South Korea) are on the move in an extraordinary way. And even though you read about it, particularly in China, it still makes a difference when you see it.

I have done a lot of reading about China, but driving past hundreds and hundreds of companies from all over the world that have gone to Dalian, where we were, the money that's been spent, the buildings that have been built, it is a country that is exploding.

Becky: If the U.S. does go into recession, do you think it going to be the type of thing that catches around the globe like a cold? Are other economies going to get dragged into it?

Warren: Well, historically they've always said that if we get a cold, the rest of the world gets pneumonia or something. But, we are still very important in the U.S., and we are still very linked in many ways. But we aren't as important as we used to be relative to the rest of the world.

Becky: Caterpillar suddenly looking a lot less optimistic about the economy, worrying about a recession itself. Does any of this become a game changer as we start to hear from more and more companies in the earnings season?

Warren: Well, we'll find out. Business has slowed down some, not as much you might think. Unemployment has been very good but we won't know that we've been in a recession until well after we've been in it. It could easily happen. A lot of the ingredients are there for it. I will guarantee you, you are young, in your lifetime you will see 6 or 7 recessions, probably. That is just part of capitalism. And I don't know, I don't know exactly when they will happen. I don't know how deep they will be, but they will happen and sometimes they will be exacerbated in various ways by mistakes people have made in investment markets or maybe in the housing market or something of the sort. But that is just part of a market system. And you know, if I had to pick the chances that we are going into a recession, I would say they are fairly significant, but I don't know anything that you don't know.

Becky: Does the China situation change after the Olympics?

Warren: I think that China is going to be a greater and greater force in the world's economy in every way. And I think that in our relations generally with them, we've often had a superior attitude about things ... Americans do that all the time. I probably do it myself. We are used to being King Pin and, we may have to learn a bit more humility. I mean, there are other major countries in the world that do not have to accept orders from the United States.

Becky: Is there anything you kinda look at and think over the next 5 to 10 years this is not something I like.

Warren: Well, the big worry you have is about the fact that you live in a world where a few people can cause incredible harm to others and where there are literally millions of people across the world that wish evil on their neighbor, one way or the other. And you worry about a few of them getting the ability, whether nuclear, chemical or biological, to do enormous harm to others. I don't have the answer to that and the world doesn't have the answer to that.

In terms of pure economics, you know, our children will live better than we live, our grandchildren will live better than our children. There is economic progress. Mankind has not used up its potential yet and we find ways to become more and more productive, turn out more and more goods and services that people want. So I'm a bull long-term on mankind's possibilities.

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