Warren Buffett’s long journey from ‘oversexed guy’ to ‘Imelda Marcos,’ and other market thoughts

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Warren Buffett is quoted in this morning’s W$J saying that “I can spend money faster than Imelda Marcos when things are right.” The implication of the Heard on the Street column in which he appears is that after several overpriced years, things are getting to be “right,” athough Buffett himself never says this.

All in all it’s a weaker and decidedly chaster repeat of Buffett’s famous quip in the depths of a bear market in 1974 that he felt like “an oversexed guy in a whorehouse.” (Forbes, which had interviewed him, substituted “harem” for “whorehouse,” but Roger Lowenstein resurrected the original wording in his great Buffett biography.) Plus, it’s worth noting that while Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway began its ascent into investing heaven not long afterwards, the overall stock market didn’t really come back until the early 1980s.

All of which is a way of saying that there’s no telling where we stand in the current repricing, to use a nice neutral term, of global financial markets. Fortune has a cool portfolio of opinions from investing gurus, in which Legg Mason’s Bill Miller declares that “these events represent opportunities” and bankruptcy king Wilbur Ross says he’s preparing to “make a major move into mortgages.” Then again, Jim Rogers, Jim Chanos and Jeremy Grantham all contend that it’s way too early for that kind of hopeful talk. My favorite quote from the whole Fortune collection is from economist Bob Shiller, who points out that this whole mess may be great news for the young folks:

My more optimistic thought is that lower housing and stock prices wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. It makes housing more affordable and provides better opportunities for younger investors. It’s not any kind of big disaster. It might slow down the economy and put us in a recession, but we’ll emerge from it, and many people will be better off.