Sunday, May 01, 2005

Buffett on Real Estate Bubble and Trade

by Calculated Risk on 5/01/2005 05:52:00 PM

Here are a few quotes from Warren Buffett and Charles Munger from the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting:

Buffett: "A lot of the psychological well-being of the American public comes from how well they've done with their houses over the years. If indeed there's been a bubble, and it's pricked at some point, the net effect on Berkshire might well be positive [because the company's financial strength would allow it to buy real-estate-related businesses at bargain prices]....

"Certainly at the high end of the real estate market in some areas, you've seen extraordinary movement.... People go crazy in economics periodically, in all kinds of ways. Residential housing has different behavioral characteristics, simply because people live there. But when you get prices increasing faster than than the underlying costs, sometimes there can be pretty serious consequences."

Munger: "You have a real asset-price bubble in places like parts of California and the suburbs of Washington, DC. "
And on the Trade Deficit:
Buffet: "It seems to me that a $618 billion trade deficit, rich as we are, strong as this country is, well, something will have to happen that will change that. Most economists will still say some kind of soft landing is possible. I don't know what a soft landing is exactly, in how the numbers come down softly from levels like these...."

Munger: "The present era has no comparable referent in the past history of capitalism. We have a higher percentage of the intelligentsia engaged in buying and selling pieces of paper and promoting trading activity than in any past era. A lot of what I see now reminds me of Sodom and Gomorrah. You get activity feeding on itself, envy and imitation. It has happened in the past that there came bad consequences."

Buffett: "I have no idea on timing. It's far easier to tell what will happen than when it will happen. I would say that what is going on in terms of trade policy is going to have very important consequences. "

Munger: "A great civilization will bear a lot of abuse, but there are dangers in the current situation that threaten anyone who swings for the fences."

Buffett to Munger: "What do you think the end will be?"

Munger: "Bad."
Read the article for more quotes on other subjects.