Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) has released its public equity holdings as of December 31, 2017. As Warren Buffett still runs Berkshire Hathaway and as he is one of the richest men alive, Buffett is also considered to be one of the greatest investors of the modern era. Maybe that means his stock picks and the stock picks of those working under him may be interesting to outside investors as well.
24/7 Wall St. has tracked many of the so-called whale watching trades made by America’s top investment managers, hedge fund managers and independent investors. There almost seems to be no greater endorsement in all whale-watching activities than to have a new stake held by Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway.
What matters about the holdings of Buffett at the end of each year is that some investors consider this the top picks of Buffett for the year ahead. The Berkshire Hathaway quarterly SEC filing (13F), which often varies from each quarterly earnings filing, showed the balance as of December 31 as being $191.2 billion from a total of 14 entities.
In Berkshire Hathaway’s third-quarter earnings report, without having the fourth-quarter earnings yet, the entire base of all assets among all entities was $681.5 billion and the fair value of all equity securities was listed as $157.65 billion. A quarter ago, that figure of equity securities was listed as having more than $82.2 billion in unrealized gains. For reference on the 13F listed amount, the S&P 500 was last seen up 7.6% from the end of September of 2017 — and that was with the stock market still down about 6% from the all-time highs hit in January of 2018.
As an additional reminder, Buffett’s changes that took place before the end of the fourth quarter were made on average at least one or two months before the recent market volatility rattled investors. And Buffett already has signaled that Berkshire Hathaway has been buying and selling, but he was all in all a net buyer of stocks. He also said he would have chosen a different method of tax reform, but corporate tax reform would be good for the parent Berkshire Hathaway company and its subsidiaries, and it would be good for almost all the companies he invests in.
Investors should keep in mind that Buffett and his team of portfolio managers have made some major changes to their stock holdings over the years. Berkshire Hathaway’s stock holdings are quite different from 10 years ago and significantly different from 20 years ago. We looked at the end of the 2007 annual earnings report, and the market value of all of Buffett’s stocks was $75 billion (with a cost basis of $39.25 billion). The addition of two more portfolio managers in recent years has only made the changes look even more extreme over time.
24/7 Wall St. has highlighted the top holdings of Warren Buffett, and we have covered some of the select shares that were added as new positions, which positions were added to, which positions were deleted and which positions saw some selling but where Berkshire still holds a stake.
American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) was the same 151.6 million shares as it has been for years. This has remained a top holding of Buffett for decades now.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was listed as a big increase of 31.2 million shares to a stake of more than 165.33 million. That stake had been raised in the prior quarter by 3.9 million shares. If you look at the IBM stake, Apple was the likely substitute for a “Buffett tech exposure” trade.