A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here.
It’s been a tough start to the year for investors in big tech companies. Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation fund, a big owner of Tesla, Zoom and Roku, has plunged nearly 30%. And speculative meme stocks like GameStop and AMC have been crushed.
But that’s not causing Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett to lose any sleep.
Banks, energy firms and other value stocks have rallied this year, which is great news for Buffett since the Oracle of Omaha’s conglomerate invests in many of these companies. Value stocks typically have lower price-to-earnings ratios, and they’re definitely not trendy.
Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB) shares are up about 3% this year and near an all-time high, while all the FAANGs, Microsoft (MSFT) and Tesla (TSLA) are deeply in the red. FAANG refers to Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and and Google.
Many of Berkshire’s top investments are financial firms which have started the year in the green, including Bank of America (BAC), American Express (AXP) and US Bancorp (USB).
Berkshire’s portfolio has also gotten a boost from Chevron (CVX), which is Buffett’s twelfth-largest holding. The oil giant’s shares are up 10% this year, making it the top performer in the Dow.
If this keeps up, Dave Portnoy of media company Barstool Sports, who has positioned himself as an investing guru for a new generation of traders, will have to eat these words from a June 2020 tweet: “I’m sure Warren Buffett is a great guy but when it comes to stocks he’s washed up. I’m the captain now.”
It’s too soon to say whether the current market trends will hold. But value investors who showed patience are looking pretty good so far in 2022.
“Buffett’s the tortoise. Value investors just plod along,” said John Buckingham, a value stock fund portfolio manager at Kovitz. “Yes, the Portnoys and Cathie Woods will have their day. But so many view investing as a casino. The key is to be patient and accept volatility.”
Sure, the 91-year-old Buffett’s biggest holding is Apple (AAPL). which is down 5% so far in 2022 but just reported stellar earnings and strong iPhone sales. Berkshire even has a tiny stake in Amazon (AMZN), which has fallen 15%. So Berkshire hasn’t avoided the Nasdaq meltdown entirely.
But Berkshire doesn’t own Facebook (FB) parent Meta, Netflix or Google (GOOGL) owner Alphabet. It also doesn’t invest in Microsoft (MSFT), due to Buffett’s friendship with Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates. Berkshire does not have a stake in Elon Musk’s Tesla (TSLA), but it has invested in Chinese electric car firm BYD (BYDDF).
Berkshire isn’t just an investing firm. It owns well-known companies ranging from battery maker Duracell and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad to Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom and paint seller Benjamin Moore.
However, Berkshire is primarily a financial services firm thanks to the fact that it owns insurance giant Geico and several other companies in the industry.
Berkshire has also benefited from the fact that investors have flocked to financial stocks due to expectations that the Federal Reserve will soon start raising interest rates. Berkshire is the largest holding in the Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF) exchange-trade fund.
“When investors gravitate towards value they will buy financial stocks and Buffett will get his share,” Buckingham said. “Berkshire is benefiting because higher interest rates help Buffett’s insurance business.”
All eyes on the BoE and ECB
Speaking of rates, the Fed has strongly suggested that a hike is coming in March. Investors will be watching the January jobs report on Friday for wage growth and inflation data, which could impact future Fed decisions.
Some central banks have already hiked rates to combat rising inflation. The Bank of England, which increased rates from zero in December, is widely expected to raise them again at its next meeting on Thursday.
Nearly two-thirds of the economists surveyed by Reuters are predicting that the central bank will boost rates another quarter of a percentage point, to 0.5%.
Many central banks in developed economies are expected to follow suit and start hiking rates later this year.
“They are all going to move gradually if they can. Central banks don’t need to be overly aggressive. It can be systematic,” said Anthony Saglimbene, global market strategist with Ameriprise Financial.
The one likely exception to the rule? The European Central Bank. The ECB also meets Thursday and is unlikely to raise rates. Its key refinancing rate is likely to remain at zero and will probably stay there for the foreseeable future.
ECB President Christine Lagarde is arguably the most dovish of the major central bank chiefs around the globe. She has argued that the ECB is unlikely to raise rates at any point in 2022 as the Covid pandemic remains a major economic challenge.
“The ECB will want to allow for more time before rate hikes,” Saglimbene said. “Growth is slower.”
Saglimbene noted that southern European countries still need super-low rates to boost their economies while EU powerhouse Germany is being impacted by a slower global trade and manufacturing environment.
Monday: Chinese stock markets closed all week for Lunar New Year
Tuesday: US ISM manufacturing; December JOLTS; Earnings from Exxon Mobil (XOM), UPS (UPS), UBS (UBS), Alphabet, Starbucks (SBUX), GM (GM), PayPal (PYPL) and Electronic Arts (EA)
Wednesday: US ADP employment report; Earnings from Marathon Petroleum (MPC), AbbVie (ABBV), Humana (HUM), New York Times (NYT), Meta Platforms, T-Mobile (TMUS), Metlife (MET), Allstate (ALL), Qualcomm (QCOM), Aflac (AFL) and Spotify (SPOT)
Thursday: Bank of England and European Central Bank rate decisions; US weekly jobless claims; US ISM services: Earnings from Shell (RDSA), Cigna (CI), ConocoPhillips (COP), Merck (MRK), Honeywell (HON), Hershey (HSY), Amazon, Ford (F), Prudential (PRU), Activision Blizzard (ATVI), News Corp (NWS), Clorox (CLX), Snap (SNAP) and Pinterest (PINS)
Friday: US jobs report; Earnings from Bristol-Myers (BMY)