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Warren Buffett pontificates on JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, newspapers

Warren BuffettJPMorgan Chase & Co.Media IndustryNewspaper and MagazineMedia General Inc.Berkshire Hathaway Inc.Jamie Dimon

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett had opinions to spare Friday, when he dished on JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Wells Fargo’s home lending prowess, the future of the euro and newspapers, Facebook and more.

“I’ve had enough mistakes of my own that I’m very forgiving when something like that happens,” said the Berkshire Hathaway chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s huge trading losses.

Banks, Buffett said, are by their nature risk-takers – it’s how they earn returns for their clients. In its second quarter, JPMorgan said it earned $5 billion in profit.

The bank also said Friday that it would claw back compensation from the employees responsible for the $5.8 billion in bungled trades.

“It sounds like a whole lot of money, but it is not that significant relative to JPMorgan,” Buffett told Betty Liu in a meandering interview on Bloomberg TV’s “In the Loop” during a media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

PHOTOS: Buffett in the news

As for Wells Fargo & Co., whose profit jumped 17% in the second quarter to $4.6 billion, Buffett praised its “sensational mortgage operation.” The bank, he hopes, will eventually manage $1 trillion in home loans.

On Thursday, the Justice Department said the bank would pay at least $175 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against minorities during the housing bubble.

“I like Wells Fargo better than anything by far,” Buffett said. “Among the big banks, I think it is the best.”

He also likes newspapers, having spent $142 million in May buying 63 publications fromMedia General Inc. His focus, however, is on smaller, independent newspapers, which he said are “still primary to many areas of interest.”

The voracious reader and former paperboy said he expects to buy more publications this year – depending on which companies approach him for a deal.

“I would rather buy newspapers myself directly,” he said. “The prices should be low because their revenues are going to decline over time. We are not buying into a business where revenues are going to increase.”

Other Buffett musings Friday:

  • The housing market “is starting to recover … You have seen a much better balance developing here in recent months,” he said.
  • The euro “cannot survive with the present rules,” he said. “The question is, can 17 countries get together in a way to do something that will require much closer cooperation when their individual conditions are so different?”
  • Facebook’s IPO “either came out at the wrong price or it was handled the wrong way,” Buffett said. “Probably a higher percentage of the people bought it because they thought it would go up the next day. That is a terrible reason to buy a stock.”
  • Americans “are quite disgusted with Congress,” he said. Legislators, he said, should increase the debt ceiling “this afternoon. They know they are going to do it, and they are all just sitting around using it as a little pawn in the game to try to embarrass the other side.”

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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