Monday, March 07, 2005

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Buffett attacks American spending junkies

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Buffett attacks American spending junkies:

"Warren Buffett, one of the world's most successful investors, has launched his most withering attack to date on the US trade deficit, describing Americans as 'rich spending junkies' who could turn into a nation of 'sharecroppers'.

"In his annual letter to investors in Berkshire Hathaway, the fund he has run for more than 30 years, Mr Buffett painted a bleak picture of a future US in which ownership and wealth had continued to move overseas, leaving the economy in thrall to foreign interests and faced with financial turmoil and political unrest.

He said his performance last year had been 'lacklustre'. He explained his mounting bet against the dollar in terms of a spiralling US trade deficit - which, he warned, may be approaching crisis point.

Mr Buffett said Berkshire had built a $21.4bn (�11bn) position in foreign exchange contracts, spread among 12 currencies. He said little appeared to have been done to tackle the problem, despite constant calls for action from 'hand-wringing luminaries'.

"'Without policy changes, currency markets could even become disorderly and generate spillover effects, both political and financial,' Mr Buffett warned. 'Such a scenario is a far from remote possibility that policymakers should be considering now,' the billionaire said, though he conceded policymakers' 'bent, however, is to lean towards not so benign neglect'.

"The 74-year-old told investors he 'tap-danced to work' and promised them this year's meeting of investors would be another 'Woodstock for capitalists'. However, on the subject of the US trade deficit, his passions appear to be stirred. 'This force-feeding of American wealth to the rest of the world is now proceeding at the rate of $1.8bn daily.'"

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