(Adds verb to headline)
* Sokol sees housing markets out of balance through 2011
* U.S. unemployment seen exceeding 10 pct
* Sokol warns of unseen wave of selling pressure
* Sokol says US economy, markets need time to recover
By Joseph A. Giannone
NEW YORK, May 28 David Sokol, chairman of
Berkshire Hathaway Inc's (BRKa.N) MidAmerican Energy Holdings
and a contender to succeed Warren Buffett, warned that the U.S.
housing market still has a ways to go before bottoming out.
Sokol, who leads one of the largest U.S. power utility and
energy pipeline companies, also heads up HomeServices of
America Inc, the second largest U.S. real estate brokerage,
title and mortgage lending firm.
MidAmerican's brokerage operates in 28 of the largest U.S.
markets, and Sokol said the supply of housing still far
outstrips demand. In the meantime, the economy is sluggish,
with Sokol seeing unemployment rates exceeding 10 percent.
"As we look at the economy, I have to be honest: we're not
seeing the green shoots," Sokol said at the annual Ira Sohn
Investment Research conference, which drew some 1,200 hedge
fund executives to hear top investors share trade ideas.
"That's not surprising to us. It took us 11 years to get
into this mess where it is. We went into the emergency room
last fall and by January the banking system and economy
generally were in intensive care, and we'd expect it to stay
there for some time," Sokol said.
If anything, the glut of housing supply could grow larger
as a new wave of foreclosures and pending sales breaks on the
"We think the official statistics of 10 to 12 months'
backlog is actually nearly twice that amount," he told the
gathering, which raises funds for the treatment and cure of
"There is an enormous shadow backlog of about-to-be
foreclosed homes and of individuals who need to sell but have
time, and there are already six (for sale) signs on their
block," he said.
Assuming the economy does not worsen, he said: "It will be
be mid-2011 before we see a balancing of the existing home
sales market." He defined "balanced" as a six-month backlog.
The weak prospects for existing home sales, he added, means
delays for any rebound in new home construction and for the
(Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)