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Stocks B / Berkshire Hathaway


Subject:  The Warren & Charlie Show Date:  4/30/2005  10:15 PM
Author:  mhirschey Number:  103094 of 236837

I just got back from the meeting in Omaha, and I'm bushed. I've followed Buffett since 1970, and have been going to the annual meetings since 1990. Before looking to find Buffett on Charlie Rose tonight, I thought I'd share my unvarnished impressions.

1. I've never seen Buffett more bearish on the overall market. From 2000-02, Buffett had a few caveats about trying to time the market, but I read his current posture as outright bearish. Charlie is bearish too, but that's to be expected. Buffett is now the bigger bear.

2. Buffett said he could not explain the 4.2% yield on the 10-year treasury bond. Buffett said if he could be convinced that yield would hold, he would change his outlook in a major way. He said “we will see where that interest rate is in one year.” Clear implication: Buffett thinks interest rates are poised to make a sharp jump.

3. Buffett said that he had lived through 3 or 4 period of financial excess, and that such periods tend to end badly. He looks for compelling bargains to emerge in the stock market in the near term, and that he wants to be a patient buyer. If nothing happens within two years, Buffett said he would have to think long and hard about a big cash distribution to shareholders. Clear implication: Buffett looks for a financial hiccup, and soon.

4. Buffett spoke about FRE and FNM and the increasing potential for a financial-derivatives inspired financial disaster. He alluded to Paul Volker's prediction about a 75% chance of a near-term financial meltdown.

5. Buffett talked about GM being in an untenable position that will not end well. He went on and on about GM has a health care deal that makes the company uncompetitive, and that he did not know how he would solve the problem if he were Chairman of the GM Board. Clear implication :GM is in for hard times.

6. Buffett was laudatory about Bill Gates, and his addition to the board. Berkshire companies are doing much better than expected, but a $300 million currency loss ate much of that up. I heard more talk about macroeconomics (trade deficits, budget deficits) than at anytime since I was in graduate school. (When anyone starts talking about predicting macro events–or basing investment decision on macroeconomic considerations–I get real, real nervous.

7. Buffett said pharmaceuticals have made good money in the past, but that the business had changed. Buffett and Charlie said they had decided to look elsewhere where the valuation problem was less difficult. Clear implication: Warren and Charlie had looked/were looking hard at big pharma.

8. A $1 billion insurance acquisition was to be announced shortly.

9. Best quip: Warren said that members of the board of directors appointed to the compensation committee resembled Cihuahuas rather than Great Danes or Doberman Pinchers. Buffett then laughed nervously and said: “I hope I didn't offend any of my friends on compensation committees around the country.” Charlie interjected “It's the dogs that should be offended.”

10. Charlie was in vintage form, and more voluble than I've ever seen him. Bearish but upbeat and cheerful.

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