Why Warren Buffett Continues to Dump His Exposure to Oil and Oil Stocks

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Being the richest man in the world and being able to have a long-term investing horizon of 20 to 100 years must come with some privilege. It is no wonder that Warren Buffett is so widely followed, particularly when it comes to also having the title of being the best investor of modern times. Each quarter brings a new “whale watching” when the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) public equity holdings are released.

There are often some key changes made here and there, and sometimes there are patterns. What stood out the most about the second quarter of 2015 was that Buffett and his portfolio managers have taken even more steps than in prior quarters to run for the hills in their oil and gas stocks.

Buffett has a very mixed history when it comes to betting on energy. After all, even the greatest oil executives and the greatest commodity mangers around often admit that the next move or direction in the price of oil is simply beyond their ability to master. That is why it is important to consider the longer-term horizon, above and beyond the next week, month or even year, when it comes to oil and gas — or any commodity for that matter.

Again, the trend that has stood out in the past was a reduction to Buffett’s exposure in the oil patch. That trend has now been magnified. It is almost as if he is worried that oil could be in the dog house for years and years.

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National Oilwell Varco Inc. (NYSE: NOV) used to be a fairly large position, at 7.3 million shares in the first half of 2014. Buffett had been trimming this stake, but now it has been eliminated entirely. The March quarter stake had been reduced to 1.978 million shares, from 5.258 million shares at the end of 2014 and 7.302 million shares last June. This is one of the top oilfield equipment players.