Speaking in advance of Saturday’s annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in from Omaha, Nebraska, Buffett told CNBC: “It’s certainly not accelerating … [but] it’s not declining.”
The interview aired on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday, a day after the government’s initial look at first-quarter gross domestic product showed a weaker-than-expected annual increase of just 0.5 percent.
Reacting to the dismal numbers, the Berkshire chairman and CEO said: “The economy is not booming, [but] on the other hand, it’s not falling apart in any way shape or form, either.”
Buffett said the American consumer is “doing pretty well,” despite the consumer spending component of the GDP report showing an increase at an annual rate of only 1.9 percent. That was the slowest advance since the first quarter of 2015, and a deceleration from the 2.4 percent growth rate logged in the fourth quarter.
“The consumer is in better shape than it was, so the world is not falling apart. But we’re not seeing a lot of buoyancy either,” Buffett said.
The recent upswing in depressed oil prices, which in turn has sent gasoline prices higher, has been raising some concern about whether the consumer might run into a road block. But not at these levels, Buffett said. “If [crude] goes back to USD 100 a barrel, that’s a difference.”
West Texas Intermediate crude, the American oil benchmark, was trading around USD 46 per barrel in early trading on Friday.
Buffett was also rather reserved on the job market, saying “employment is not bad.”