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Buffett more optimistic than Obama on housing

Warren Buffett thinks housing could turn around in early 2013.

Warren Buffett thinks housing could turn around in early 2013.

Moving companies will be hoping Warren Buffett's crystal ball is more accurate than President Barack Obama's.

Responding to a question from a real estate agent at a recent town-hall meeting in Illinois, Obama said the housing market is likely to recover slowly. He said the inventory of sale properties is running to "trillions of dollars," and the federal government can't do much to expedite sales. He said the administration is focused on providing mortgage relief for troubled borrowers.

The woman who questioned the president said low mortgage rates should mean booming business for her real estate firm, except consumer confidence was severely damaged during the recent debt ceiling debate. President Obama said the "self-inflicted" wound caused by that political impasse was "inexcusable."

Speaking to Charlie Rose, Warren Buffett recently sounded a much more optimistic note. He predicted unemployment will fall below 7 percent once housing starts hit 1 million, and said he thinks there is not as much excess housing inventory as some experts estimate. Given healthy corporate profits and financial industry stabilization, Buffett said a housing rebound in early 2013 could be the final piece necessary for a wholesale economic turnaround.

Housing starts fell by a relatively modest 1.5 percent in July, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.