Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) will be in the news quite a bit now that the world’s most famous investor, chairman Warren Buffett, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. We already have offered a brief road map of what investors can expect in the months ahead based on the face value of the news and based on Mr. Buffett’s comments. With so many investors wondering what comes next, we wanted to take a look at Berkshire Hathaway’s best-performing stock holdings so far in 2012.
Some investors may worry that, if Buffett were to leave, the portfolio would perhaps find a large rotation out of current positions. While anything is possible, we expect almost no change whatsoever to the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio based on the cancer news. Some new stocks may still get added with two new portfolio managers inside the conglomerate. Some stocks also may get paired down further. That being said, Buffett has treated these holdings in many cases as though they are “partner companies” rather than mere stock investments that are to be bought and sold solely based on the price gain or loss at a certain time.
Buffett’s top 10 performers so far this year are significantly outperforming the broader market indexes. The DJIA is currently up about 8.1% so far in 2012, and the S&P 500 Index is outperforming the DJIA with a gain of 11.3%, due to such a high weighting and strong performance of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) is only up by 5.7% so far in 2012, and that is before the effect of Buffett’s cancer news. Only one of Berkshire Hathaway’s 30-plus common stocks is down so far in 2012, and that is Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), with a loss of only 1.2%.
What was most interesting about the holdings noted as 2012’s 10 best performers is that the dividends are often paltry. Most have dividend yields that are well below average. We have given some color on each position, shown some trends on each, and shown the price and relative price performance on each. It is no coincidence that the financial stocks in the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio are up so much when you consider that the financial sector led the market in the first quarter and so far this year.
USG Corporation (NYSE: USG) is Warren Buffett’s single best stock performer so far in 2012, as Americans continue to look for ways to play a coming housing recovery. The latest NAHB confidence dip may be a concern, but perhaps a remodel housing economy can be enough to return a turnaround here. What is interesting is that Thomson Reuters is currently looking for a loss of $1.30 per share in 2012 and a loss of $0.52 in 2013, despite what it expects to be rising sales. Unlike most of Buffett’s top stocks, USG pays no common dividend. The $16.89 share price compares too a 52-week trading range of $5.75 to $19.44.
Ingersoll-Rand Plc (NYSE: IR) turned out to be Buffett’s second-best common stock in 2012, with a gain of 32%. The company makes tools, compressed air systems, ARO fluid products and lifting and material handling products, among other products and services. The dividend yield here is roughly 1.6%. At $40.06, its 52-week trading range is $25.86 to $52.33.