Buffett says it doesn’t feel like a 3% economy
Billionaire investor weighs in on Apple, Harvey and Trump
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett says it still feels more like a 2% economy to him despite the government today boosting its second-quarter GDP growth estimate to 3%.
In an interview with CNBC, Buffett, who turned 87 Wednesday, weighed in on many topics Wall Street is watching, ranging from Hurricane Harvey and North Korea to his major holdings in Apple and major banks such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
When asked if it felt like a 3% economy, Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which has investments in virtually every part of the U.S. economy, said, “I would guess we are in a 2% growth economy now. Every now and then we think we are accelerating, and every now and then that maybe there’s a double dip. It just seems to be a couple of percent.”
Here’s what the “Oracle of Omaha” said about other key topics:
uApple stock. Buffett said he has not sold a single share of Apple stock since he began accumulating them, but he said one of his fund managers — either Ted Weschler or Todd Combs — did last quarter as a way to fund new investment ideas. At the end of the second quarter, Buffett’s Berkshire owned 130.2 million shares of the iPhone maker, according to regulatory filings, which amounts to a 2.5% stake in the tech company, Buffett said.
Buffett did not say whether he was adding to his Apple position in the current quarter.
uKraft Heinz acquisition mind-set. Buffett said consumer products giant Kraft Heinz, best known for brands such as Heinz ketchup, Oscar Mayer hot dogs and Jell- O, would not buy rival Mondelez International, home to brands such as Oreo cookies, Dentyne gum and Wheat Thins crackers. Kraft shares were unchanged, while Mondelez shares fell 1.9%. Buffett’s Berkshire is a major owner of Kraft Heinz along with private equity firm 3G. At the end of the second quarter, Berkshire owned 325.6 million shares. uBerkshire’s sizable bank
holdings. Buffett, who on Tuesday night exercised his right to buy 700 million shares of Bank of America stock at a discounted price of $7.14 under terms of a 2011 deal with the bank after he invested $5 billion, says he’s happy with his new investment. “I like the business, and I like the valuation very much,” Buffett said.
Buffett, also a major holder of Wells Fargo, says he still thinks it is a “terrific bank” despite its fake accounts scandal. “The problems are being corrected,” Buffett said.
Through its ownership of Geico auto insurance, Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway underwrites roughly 10% of the auto policies in Texas and insures about 500,000 cars. “We don’t know at this point” the size of the losses, he said. He added that Berkshire reduced its exposure to catastrophic lines of insurance in recent years due to premiums coming down, so he didn’t foresee a hit from that line of coverage. uPresident Trump’s ten
ure. Buffett, who raised money for and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, says he prefers not to criticize sitting presidents, even ones he didn’t vote for. “I am not in the business of attacking any president,” he said. Buffett says he has invested during 14 of 15 president’s terms during his lifetime, and stocks rose each time.
uNorth Korea threat. Saying, “Who knows what could happen?” Buffett stressed that the more nations such as North Korea that have nuclear capabilities the “more likely that ... something with a remote probability finally happens. It’s a more dangerous world.”
“I would guess we are in a 2% growth economy now,” Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett said.