Oracle's Warning on U.S. Economy

The "Omaha Oracle" warns the U.S. recession may last longer than thought.

May 3, 2008— -- Today, a record 30,000 investors and admirers will convene to hear sage advice from a modest man who's amassed a mega fortune: Warren Buffet.

Buffet is the richest man in the world, worth an estimated $62 billion. He is often referred to as "The Oracle of Omaha" and is so revered in financial circles that investors hang on his every word.

At the annual meeting of his company's shareholders, Buffet will attend to company business, and speak about the U.S. economy.

He is expected to warn how the recession may be far worse than many believe.

Employers cut more than 20,000 jobs in April, according to the U.S. Labor Department. It marks the fourth straight month of losses, and many economists say it is the latest sign America is in a recession.

Tougher economic times may be one reason for the record attendance of those gathered for what's been labeled the "Woodstock for Capitalists."

But Buffet's company, Berkshire Hathaway, isn't immune to a slowing economy. On Friday, the company reported a 64 percent decline in first quarter profits.

Buffett gave his latest assessment of the economy just days leading up to his annual shareholders' meeting.

"My general feeling is that the recession will be longer and deeper than most people think," Buffet said in a CNBC interview this week.

For more than 50 years, Buffet has created more wealth, based on his investment insight, than anybody else in history.

He has earned a tremendous amount of respect because he's able to articulate complex economic concepts and financial ideas in a very easy to understand way.

Buffet's statements come after a week of mixed signals that has investors searching for a sign — any sign — as to where the economy is going.

"The news of the past week has told us that the economy is wavering between the good and the bad," said Michael Santoli, senior editor of Barron's Financial Weekly.

Friday's job report showed fewer losses than expected, despite April's heavy losses.

Due to lagging sales, mega store Home Depot announced it was closing 15 stores and halting plans to build 50 more.

"By building fewer stores, in the best locations, and making sure our existing stores are profitable, our company will be in a much stronger competitive position," Home Depot CEO Frank Blake told the Associated Press.

Since the economy is still growing, it means that America is not technically in a recession.

But for millions of Americans unable to save any money as they struggle with high gas and food prices, technicalities are just that — something Santoli said billionaire Buffet agrees with.

"He really has been warning about ... too much debt at every level of our system, government, companies and individuals," said Santoli. "And that's the main reason we have this big overhang in terms of what kind of economic fortune we might be in for here."