Buffett Remains Optimistic About The Economy

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffet released his annual letter to shareholders over the weekend. In it, he sounds an optimistic note about the U.S. economy, and he dismisses warnings that the country faces terrifying problems.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The billionaire investor Warren Buffett is sounding an optimistic note about the economy. He made the comments over the weekend in his annual letter to shareholders of his company, Berkshire Hathaway.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI: As usual, Buffett's letter was a mix of personal anecdotes, investment advice, and frank assessments of Berkshire Hathaway's holdings. Profits were up sharply in the last quarter of the year, he said, partly due to his acquisition of the railroad company Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which had worked out much better than he expected. He said he believed a housing recovery will begin within a year, which will benefit Berkshire Hathaway companies that make related products, like bricks and carpets. He said he was looking for ways to spend some of Berkshire Hathaway's $38 billion in cash, and was likely to acquire new companies.

He wrote: Our elephant gun has been reloaded, and my trigger finger is itchy. He also wrote: Throughout my lifetime, politicians and pundits have constantly moaned about terrifying problems facing America, yet our citizens now live an astonishing six times better than when I was born.

Buffett also revealed a bit more about his succession plans, saying investment manager Todd Combs had been hired to begin managing a small part of Berkshire Hathaway's asset portfolio.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

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