2012 is getting off to a great start for the equity markets. We recently looked at the performance of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.B), which is underperforming this year so far with a gain of 3.1% to-date in 2012. The S&P 500, or the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY) is up 5.5%. We looked through all of Warren Buffett’s stock holdings of late and some of his non-equity holdings to see which positions were leading so far.
The surprise winner so far in 2012 after the first month is USG Corporation (NYSE: USG). then there are stocks like Bank of America Corporation (NYSE: BAC), Ingersoll-Rand plc (NYSE: IR), Moody’s Corporation (NYSE: MCO), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC), Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC), and American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP). Yep, the other winners of these seven holdings are mostly tied to finance.
We have evaluated the performance to date (from FinViz.com) and added in some color on each. We have also shown how the price compares to the 52-week highs or to the consensus price target as well, and included in some cases whether the position is substantial or not.
USG Corporation (NYSE: USG) is up 32.8% year-to-date and is actually Berkshire Hathaway’s top performing stock. With so much interest in the bottoming out of housing at some point in 2012, it may not be that ridiculous even if the fundamentals have not changed all that much yet. The concern here is that at $13.50 it now trades above the consensus $13.30 price target. Buffett holds over 17 million USG shares.
Bank of America Corporation (NYSE: BAC) is up 32.4% year-to-date and the new large preferred position is back to where Warren Buffett doesn’t look foolish for dreaming up his investment in BofA while in the bath. At $7.36 there is still plenty of upside to the $8.90 price target and this remains (and is expected to remain) well under book value.
Ingersoll-Rand plc (NYSE: IR) is up 15.5% year-to-date, not bad for what is usually a slower-moving company with a portfolio of industrial and commercial products. At $35.18, it does not have much upside left to the consensus price target of $37.94 but it is still way off the 52-week high of $52.33. Buffett’s position is way down from prior periods and is only 636,600 shares as of the last report. This position just can’t move the entire Berkshire Hathaway Barometer too much.
Moody’s Corporation (NYSE: MCO) is up 11.6% year-to-date. The credit rating agency has been a controversial position that Buffett has lightened up on through time. At $37.60, it is close to the consensus price target of $39.60 and under the 52-week high of $41.93. Buffett did lighten up a bit on this position but still holds roughly 28.4 million shares.
Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) is up 9.5% year-to-date and is one of the news 2011 investments that Mr. Buffett hid. It was also his first technology pick as far as pure hardware is concerned. At $26.55, Intel is very close to its 52-week high of $27.00 and close to its consensus analyst price target of $27.17.
Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) is up 8.9% year-to-date and is up the least of the big money-center banks. It is also the only one of the money-center banks trading above book value because the restructuring regulatory climate over future earnings will create the least amount of change at Wells Fargo. Buffett keeps adding here and now holds over 361 million shares as one of his biggest positions ever.
American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) is up 7.7% year-to-date, which is lower than many financials. The recent earnings report showed improvement but perhaps a trend towards peaking of the improving credit metrics of AmEx customers. Buffett’s position is roughly 151.6 million shares.
If you enjoyed the top analyst calls, you can sign up in the box below to join our morning email list to receive news directly in your inbox each morning. We include major analyst upgrades and downgrades, IPO and M&A news, special situation developments, observations on Warren Buffett and key market gurus, as well as special exclusive feature stories.
JON C. OGG