Saturday, July 09, 2011

Buffett Says ‘Bet Very Heavily’ Against Double-Dip Recession

Billionaire Warren Buffett said he is wagering on continued economic expansion and doesn’t expect a second recession.

“I would bet very heavily against that,” Buffett told Bloomberg Television’s Betty Liu on the “In the Loop” program today after data showed slowing U.S. job growth. “How fast the recovery will come, I don’t know. I see nothing that indicates any kind of a double dip.”

The unemployment rate unexpectedly climbed to 9.2 percent in June, the highest level this year, and hiring by companies was the weakest since May 2010, Labor Department data showed. U.S. employers added 18,000 jobs last month, less than the 105,000 median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey.

“It means that we’re still a ways off from getting to where we should be,” Buffett said in the interview, in Sun Valley, Idaho. “We’re seeing growth around the world, but it’s not mushrooming.”

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. added about 3,000 jobs last year after cutting more than 20,000 positions in 2009. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company employed about 260,000 people at units from insurance and shipping to consumer goods and energy, Berkshire said in February. Employment gained last year at Berkshire units including car insurer Geico and railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe. Staffing fell at carpet-maker Shaw Industries.

“Jobs come with demand,” Buffett, 80, said today. “We’re seeing demand a lot of places but we’re not seeing it in the construction field.”

Bricks, Carpet

Berkshire owns a real estate brokerage, a maker of manufactured homes and units that construct roofs and sell bricks and carpet. Buffett said in February that a housing recovery would begin “within a year or so” and that he’s preparing the company’s businesses for growth. Buffett is chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire.

Berkshire expanded its Acme Brick unit with a $50 million acquisition, and Johns Manville, the roofing subsidiary, is building a $55 million plant in Ohio, Buffett said in his annual letter. Shaw will spend $210 million on plant and equipment this year, Buffett said.

“We will come back big time on employment when residential construction comes back,” Buffett said. The unemployment rate will drop to 6 percent “within a few years,” he said.


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