Buffett Soured on Banks at Potentially the Wrong Time

Buffett Soured on Banks at Potentially the Wrong Time

Last year, Berkshire Hathaway soured on bank stocks, a decision that cost the company about $10 billion, “given the strong rally in the sector in recent months.” This according to a recent article in Barron’s.

“The sales of bank stocks were one of Buffett’s investment miscues during a year of mistakes and missed opportunities,” the article says, adding that Berkshire also bailed out of $6 billion in airline stocks. Four of the major carriers, it reports, have since nearly doubled in value.

Before its sale of bank stocks last year, the article reports that Berkshire was “heavily exposed to the sector, holding an interest in all the major U.S. banks except for Citigroup and Morgan Stanley. Buffett may have felt that Berkshire was too exposed to the sector given the weak economy last year. He had no immediate comment.”

Berkshire still has major holdings in Bank of America (roughly $38 billion) and a large and long-held stake in American Express ($21 billion). Notable sales include 60 million shares of JPMorgan valued at about $8 billion at the start of 2020, and 345 million shares of Wells Fargo worth about $18 billion. [Note: Berkshire had held Wells Fargo for 30 years.]

The article notes that in 2019, Buffett told CNBC that he liked financials: “They’re very good investments at sensible prices, based on my thinking.”