Buffett says economy is slowing amid virus fears

Josh Funk
Associated Press

Omaha, Neb. – Billionaire Warren Buffett says the viral outbreak in China has slowed economic growth, but he remains confident in the long-term future of American business.

Buffett appeared on CNBC Monday after releasing his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders over the weekend.

Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Buffett said the reports he gets from Berkshire’s assortment of more than 90 businesses and stock investments show that business is a little softer now than it was six months ago, but he remains optimistic.

“Twenty or 30 years from now, American business – and probably all over the world – will be far better than it is today,” Buffett said.

Many of Berkshire’s roughly 1,000 Dairy Queen stores in China are closed and many of Berkshire’s other companies are suffering supply chain problems.

The company remains a net buyer of stocks over time, and Buffett doesn’t expect that to change because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“This is scary stuff. I don’t think it should affect what you do in stocks,” Buffett said. “In terms of the human race, it’s scary stuff when you have a pandemic.”

Buffett touched on politics during the interview. The long-time Democrat said he would support Mike Bloomberg over the current front runner in the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders, but he didn’t discuss all the top candidates.

“I would have no trouble voting for Mike Bloomberg,” Buffett said.

The new virus took aim at a broadening swath of the globe Monday. Europe and the Middle East scrambled to limit the spread of an outbreak that showed signs of stabilizing at its Chinese epicenter.

Worldwide, the number of people sickened by the coronavirus topped 79,000.