Buffett: US economy essentially in a recession

Buffett said it was not clear how far the recession would go because that is difficult to predict.

Warren Buffet 88 224 (photo credit: Bloomberg)
Warren Buffet 88 224
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
The US economy is essentially in a recession even if it hasn't met the technical definition of one yet, billionaire Warren Buffett said Monday. Buffett said in an interview with cable network CNBC the reports he gets from the retail businesses his holding company owns show a significant slowdown in purchases. The chairman and CEO of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said millions of people have also lost equity in their homes because home prices have dropped. "I would say, by any commonsense definition, we are in a recession," he said on CNBC. But Buffett said it was not clear how far the recession would go because that is difficult to predict. The technical definition of a recession most economists use is two consecutive quarters of negative growth in the nation's gross domestic product. On Thursday, the Commerce Department reported that the gross domestic product increased at a low 0.6 percent pace in the quarter that ended December 31. In the July-September quarter, the economy grew at a brisk 4.9%. Gross domestic product measures the value of all goods and services produced in the United States and is the best barometer of the country's economic health. A survey released last week by the National Association for Business Economics showed that 45% of economists are predicting a recession in 2008. But Buffett said the US economy would be fine in the long run. "Over time, my children are going to live better than I do, although they don't believe it," he said. Buffett's appearance on television came on the heels of his annual letter to shareholders, which he released Friday along with Berkshire's 2007 financial report. Buffett also said on CNBC he did not agree on everything with his favorite presidential candidates, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and he wouldn't want either one to succeed him as Berkshire's chief capital allocater. "I would certainly appoint either one of them to run a business, but running a business is a little different than my job," he said. On the cause of the credit crisis, he said, "The mistake was in lending unwisely. There were a lot of dumb lending practices." Berkshire owns more than 60 subsidiaries including insurance, clothing, furniture, natural gas, corporate jet and candy companies. Berkshire also has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.