Buffett: economy has 'no bounce'

The legendary investor says it will take time for the U.S. economy to recover but hints that the worst is over.

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NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Warren Buffett said Wednesday that the U.S. economy has "no bounce" and will take time to recover, but there is no risk of deflation to push it further into despair.

Speaking on CNBC television, the world's second-richest person also praised efforts by the Obama administration and Federal Reserve to jump-start economic activity.

He lamented that the slowdown has hurt his insurance and investment company Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which runs close to 80 businesses and in the January-to-March period had its first quarterly loss since 2001.

"We have had no bounce" in the economy, Buffett said on CNBC television in New York. "There are a lot of excesses to be wrung out, and that process is still under way, and it looks to me it will be under way for quite a while."

Asked whether the economy was still in a "shambles," as he had said in February, Buffett said: "I'm afraid that's true."

U.S. gross domestic product fell at a 5.7% annualized rate in the first quarter.

Government efforts to stimulate business activity remain a work in progress, and President Barack Obama Tuesday again said the nation's jobless rate will rise above 10%.

"They're doing things, but they take a while to have an effect," Buffett said. "You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant."

Yet he added that "I don't worry about deflation at all," and maintained his long faith in the stock market, saying it is "attractive over the next 10 years" relative to alternatives.

Asked whether Obama should reappoint Ben Bernanke to lead the Federal Reserve when the chairman's term expires next January, Buffett said: "I don't see how you could do better."

Stocks for the long run

In a separate interview, Buffett told Fox Business Network he expects the United States to maintain its "triple-A" credit rating for decades. Berkshire lost its equivalent rating this year.

Buffett also said he plans to keep his Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS, Fortune 500) warrants, which now show a paper profit.

Last September, Goldman agreed to sell Berkshire $5 billion of preferred stock carrying a 10% annual dividend, and warrants to buy $5 billion of common stock at $115 per share.

"We'll make a lot of money off Goldman," Buffett said.

Goldman earlier this month repaid $10 billion of federal bailout money taken from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Buffett spoke just before a scheduled lunch with Zhao Danyang, a Hong Kong-based investor who in an auction last June agreed to pay $2.11 million to dine with the billionaire.

An auction for a similar lunch to benefit the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit offering housing, job training, health and child care, and meals for the poor, is being conducted this week on eBay Inc's (EBAY, Fortune 500) website.

As of 3:30 p.m. ET, the top bid was $135,678. The auction ends Friday.

Berkshire's Class A (BRK.A) closed up $1,000 to $86,800 on the New York Stock Exchange. To top of page

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