Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Buffett: Better To Buy Equities Over Time

From the Wall Street Journal.com:

Warren Buffett, one of the world's richest men, reiterated his support for the controversial estate tax, which levies a tax of up to 55% on the estates of the wealthy.

He called the tax a "good way to collect money" in a time when the government needs to collect more in taxes.

Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. made the comments Monday in an interview with Liz Claman that was aired on Fox Business Network.

Buffett estimated the estate tax raises about $25 billion a year, which amounts to about 1% of the revenue of the country.

"If you don't get it from estate tax," it would need to be replaced he said, and he said he has seen no proposal for making up the money.

Buffett is donating most of his own holdings to a charitable foundation run by Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp., who also spoke during the interview in support of the tax. Buffett also advised investors to invest in equities regularly over time rather than try to time the market.

"This is a poor time to buy government bonds," he said.

Buffett also said that commercial real estate will continue to fall in value. Values "will hit the skids big time," he said.

He responded to criticism of credit rating agencies by saying investors should not rely on ratings to make investing decisions. Berkshire owns about 20% of the company that owns Moody's Investors Service. The agencies have been criticized in the past year for giving good ratings to securities that ended up posting big losses.

During Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting over the weekend, Buffett said the company had earned $1.7 billion in operating earnings for the first quarter, down 10% from $1.9 billion a year earlier. The company will report full earnings on Friday.

Buffett also said some of the derivatives contracts the company has written in recent years will probably lose money.

Buffett has criticized derivatives contracts over the years but revealed that he more than doubled the number of derivatives contracts he held in 2008 to 251 because the contracts were "mispriced."

At the end of 2008, Berkshire Hathaway had received payments of $8.1 billion on the contracts.

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