Investor Warren Buffett discussed topics ranging from the state of the U.S. economy to rail car safety, the proposed Keystone gas pipeline and extreme weather swings during a three-hour appearance on CNBC.
Buffett said the reports he gets from Berkshire's 80-odd subsidiaries in a variety of industries show that the economy is growing at a moderate rate, despite swings in investors' mood.
"The American economy for five years has been moving at a fairly steady rate upwards —not as fast as people would like — but I think that absolutely continues now," he said.
Here are a few other topics he addressed:
— The chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said it's very unlikely regulators will consider his conglomerate "too big to fail" because of its financial strength and because its relatively small portfolio of derivative contracts is winding down. He said regulators haven't contacted Berkshire.
— Berkshire Hathaway is a major shareholder in Coca-Cola Co. and Buffett says he drinks five Cokes a day. Buffett said Coca-Cola has wonderful brands that account for roughly 3 percent of all liquids consumed globally.
"It's under a lot more pressure than it was 10 or 15 years ago, particularly in the United States," Buffett said. "But their sales went up last year just as they've gone up nearly every year."
—Buffett said increasing the minimum wage is likely to reduce the number of jobs somewhat. He said expanding the earned income tax credit would be a more effective way to reduce income inequality.
— The 83-year-old Buffett said the conglomerate will be in good hands once he is gone. The company plans to split his job into separate investment management, CEO and chairman roles. Berkshire's two newest investment managers — Ted Weschler and Todd Combs — joined Buffett for part of the interview.
Buffett said both men and have added a substantial amount to Berkshire's profits in recent years. Buffett also praised Tracy Britt Cool, who serves as chairwoman of four Berkshire subsidiaries in her role as the billionaire's financial assistant.
— Buffett says he's not interested in owning Bitcoins because they don't store value or provide a durable means of exchange. Bitcoin is billed as a virtual currency that has grown in popularity since its 2009 creation as a way to make transactions across borders without third parties such as banks.
"It's not a currency," Buffett said. "I wouldn't be surprised if it's not around in 10 or 20 years."
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