Investment legend Warren Buffett has effusive praise for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and says stocks will plummet if Congress fails to reappoint him.
The actions of Bernanke, along with his cohorts at the Treasury Department, saved the economy from what could have been a much more severe crisis – a “financial panic,” Buffett told CNBC.
“If I could vote twice (for Bernanke), I would,” said the Oracle of Omaha.
“He did a magnificent job over this period, when I look back at September, October 2008, he took action. Maybe he extended his authority, but he did what he should have done in response to the economic Pearl Harbor.”
And what’s Bernanke’s impact on the stock market?
“If he’s not confirmed, tell me ahead of time, so I can sell some stocks,” Buffett said.
“A selloff would be justified.”
Proposals are progressing in Congress to give legislators more control over the Fed.
Some Congressmen, such as Ron Paul, R-Tex., even want Congress to review the Fed’s decisions on interest rates.
Buffett strongly opposes this idea.
“Congress is the worry of American people,” he said.
“If Congress says it can do better than Ben Bernanke, I would get very worried.”
Others share Buffett’s concern.
“Proposed remedies should neither politicize nor create the potential to influence the Fed for political purposes,” J.D. Foster, a senior economic fellow at the Heritage Foundation wrote in a report.
Elsewhere, Buffett, himself a major employer via subsidiaries of his Berkshire Hathaway holding company, doesn’t see any reason to hire back tens of thousands of workers at his own company first until there is a clear sign of recovery.
Buffett doesn’t expect to hire "until orders start coming in,” he told CNBC.
As for the consumer economy, he added, "you're not going to have people feeling good until jobs come back."
Berkshire units have jettisoned 25,000 in the last year and a half.
Buffett also criticized President Barack Obama’s plan to tax banks to pay for the bailouts so far.
Banks "are cleaning up their own mess," and not necessarily making "obscene profits," he told the financial news network.
Meanwhile, Buffett continues to oppose Kraft’s $19 billion deal to take over Cadbury, saying it dilutes Kraft shareholders.
The transaction does so because Kraft is paying for Cadbury partly with its own shares. And Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is Kraft’s biggest shareholder.
After Kraft’s agreement to make the purchase, “I feel poorer,” the world’s second richest man told CNBC.
What particularly bothers him is that Kraft sold its pizza business to Nestle for only nine times earnings, while it is buying Kraft for a whopping 16 to 17 times earnings.
“That gets expensive,” Buffett said.
“Kraft is using its own stock that its own directors say is significantly undervalued. . . . If I had a choice, I’d vote no, but I don’t have a vote.”
Berkshire says he supports Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld overall.
“I think Irene has done a good job in operations. I think she’s a good person,” Buffett said. “I just don’t want her making this deal.”
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