Buffett on the Economy, Natural Disasters, Rail Safety

Investor Warren Buffett says the economy continues the steady improvement that began in fall of 2009 and he remains optimistic about the future.

Buffett appeared on the business cable channel CNBC Monday morning after releasing an upbeat annual letter to his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders over the weekend. Buffett is chairman and CEO of the Omaha, Neb., conglomerate.

Buffett says 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.

He notes that there's been little change in the growth rate since 2009, despite swings in investors' mood.

But Buffett says he doesn't make investment decisions based on the economy. He says he focuses on the prospects of the business in which he's investing, and the price.

Buffett: Climate change not causing more disasters
Buffett also says the rate of disasters that Berkshire Hathaway's insurance companies see hasn't changed because of extreme weather.

Buffett said on CNBC Monday that he hasn't made any change in the way he calculates the likelihood of a catastrophe because of climate change.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. owns several insurance and reinsurance funds and often has to pay significant claims when natural disasters strike.

Buffett says insuring against hurricanes in the United States has been extremely profitable in the past five years because few storms have made landfall.

Buffett: Rail tank cars need upgrades for oil
Buffett also said it's clear that railroad tank cars carrying crude oil need to be updated because oil from certain regions has the potential to be more dangerous than previously thought.

Buffett appeared on CNBC Monday after releasing his letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders Saturday. Buffett owns BNSF railroad and a manufacturer of tank cars.

Buffett says the crude oil from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota and Montana and the Eagle Ford oil field in south Texas has proved more volatile than anticipated.

That volatility may have contributed to several fiery derailments in the past year, including one in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, last summer that killed 47 people.

New safety rules being drafted by federal regulators may not be completed until later this year.

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