Warren Buffett Says Reaching for Yield Is ‘Stupid,’ But a Human Impulse

Warren Buffett criticized companies including life insurers that respond to low interest rates by taking more risks, even as he acknowledged that the urge to seek better returns is normal.

“Reaching for yield is really stupid, but it’s very human,” Buffett said Monday in an interview on CNBC. “People are reaching for yield, there’s no question about that. And that’s stupid and it has consequences over time, but it’s very human.”

Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer ofBerkshire Hathaway Inc., was asked about life insurance companies that sell products, such as annuities, that promise higher returns than the rates the companies can earn on investments. The push for yield sometimes persuades executives to make risky changes, leading to the boom in leveraged loans and the weakening of covenants, he said.

Buffett, in hisannual letter to shareholders Saturday, discussed hisview on repurchases andcorporate governance. The 89-year-old investor said he plans to allow shareholders to direct questions to his key deputies, Ajit Jain and Greg Abel, at this year’s annual meeting, giving a greater voice to two people seen as top contenders to replace him when he steps down as CEO.

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says:

“Warren Buffett’s annual letter supports our view that Berkshire’s next CEO will be one of two vice chairmen — Ajit Jain or Greg Abel. 4Q share repurchase was above our expectation, but we believe buybacks will stay limited.”

–Matthew Palazola, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence

–Read the reporthere

On Monday, Buffett was also asked about his bets on some of the major airlines, including Delta Air Lines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. He said it was “very unlikely” that Berkshire would buy an airline outright, partly because it’s such a regulated industry.

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