NEW YORK (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said the U.S. economy remains in recession, disputing this week’s assessment by a leading arbiter of economic activity that the downturn ended more than a year ago.
“We’re still in a recession,” Buffett told CNBC television in an interview broadcast on Thursday. “We’re not gonna be out of it for a while, but we will get out.”
On Monday, the National Bureau of Economic Research said the world’s largest economy ended an 18-month recession in June 2009, but cautioned that its assessment did not mean normal activity had resumed.
Buffett said he defines a recession differently from the NBER, saying it ends when real per capita gross domestic product returns to its pre-downturn level.
President Barack Obama said on Monday that economic weakness is “still very real” for the millions of Americans who are out of work, have seen the value of their homes fall, or are mired in debt.
Buffett, 80, runs Berkshire Hathaway Inc, which has roughly 80 operating businesses. “A great majority” of these businesses are “coming back slowly,” he said.
Berkshire’s operations cover a broad swath of the economy, including the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, Dairy Queen ice cream, Geico auto insurance, and luxury jewelers such as Borsheim’s.
Shipments at Burlington Northern are “61 percent of the way back,” Buffett said. “Our carpet business, our brick business, our insulation business, they’re not back 61 percent, but they are moving back.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has already driven short-term lending rates to near zero, said it is prepared to provide additional stimulus to support economic expansion and avert possible deflation.
“We’ve used up a lot of bullets,” Buffett said. “And we talk about stimulus. But the truth is, we’re running a federal deficit that’s 9 percent of GDP. That is stimulative as all get out.”
Buffett’s $45 billion net worth makes him the second-richest American, trailing only Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates, Forbes magazine said on Wednesday.
Berkshire Class A shares fell 0.6 percent to $123,077 in morning trading. They traded as high as $126,160, their highest level in nearly 23 months, on September 17.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn