Nov 292019

I am quoted in The Dallas Morning News: “Warren Buffett bet big on the big four airlines — and so far it is paying off”

“Buffett said the airline labor problems from previous years have been mostly resolved, you’ve had a consolidation and the airlines are less likely to have suicidal price competition,” said David Kass, a business professor at the University of Maryland who runs a Warren Buffett blog.

Earlier this year, there was speculation that Berkshire Hathaway would invest further by purchasing a majority stake in Southwest Airlines, but since then rumors have subsided, Kass said.

For now, Kass said Berkshire Hathaway looks intent on holding onto his shares in airline stocks — unless there are fundamental changes to the industry or one of the carriers.

“He prefers to own a company forever,” Kass said. “He’s owned Coca-Cola since 1988. The only time he would get rid of a company is if [it] ran into significant operating problems.”

 Posted by at 3:22 pm
Nov 232019

I am quoted in a Bloomberg article “Berkshire Takes on Short Sellers With Bet on Furniture Retail”

“They have a certain limited circle of competence and within that circle of competence is furniture stores,” said David Kass, a professor of finance at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
The relatively small size of Berkshire’s stake in RH, which totaled $206 million at the end of the third quarter compared to Berkshire’s $56 billion bet on Apple Inc., likely indicates it was made by one of Buffett’s two investing deputies, Todd Combs or Ted Weschler, according to Kass. Berkshire didn’t respond to messages seeking comment on which investment manager purchased the stake. 
Whoever made the RH bet likely perceived the stock as under-priced at the time of purchase, even if it was high on an absolute basis, according to Kass. And Berkshire hasn’t shied away from buying stocks at relatively high levels. One of the deputies has spent the past year snapping up Inc. shares, which now trade around $1,745 and more than 80 times estimated profits. 
“Maybe they saw a certain growth opportunity here that other analysts are missing,” said Kass. “Much of their investment career is to try to find those rare under-priced opportunities where they expect to outperform the market.”
 Posted by at 3:47 pm
Nov 142019

In an SEC Form 13-F filing after the market closed today, Berkshire Hathaway revealed 2 major additions to its portfolio during the third quarter.

Berkshire made an initial purchase of

(1) 7.5 million shares of Occidental Petroleum (OXY) that was valued at $332 million on September 30   (Probably Todd Combs or Ted Weschler)  (Note: Berkshire also has warrants to purchase 80 million shares of OXY at $62.50 per share which would result in a $5 billion stake in the company.  That resulted from a May 2019 funding deal which included $10 billion perpetual preferred stock with an 8% annual dividend) (Warren Buffett)

(2) 1.2 million shares of RH (formerly Restoration Hardware) (RH) that was valued at $206 million on September 30. (Todd Combs or Ted Weschler)

There was one major portfolio reduction during the third quarter.  Berkshire’s stake in Wells Fargo (WFC) was reduced by 7.67% or $1.58 billion. (Warren Buffett)

Berkshire’s top 5 portfolio holdings (66% of its total portfolio of $215 billion) as of September 30 were:

(1) Apple (AAPL)– $55.7 billion

(2) Bank of America (BAC) – $27.0 billion

(3) Coca Cola (KO) – $21.8 billion

(4) Wells Fargo (WFC) – $19.1 billion

(5) American Express (AXP)– $17.9 billion




 Posted by at 6:40 pm
Nov 122019

This is my favorite Warren Buffett quote:

“Success in investing doesn’t correlate with IQ once you’re above the level of 120.  What you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.  If your IQ is 150, sell 30 points; it won’t hurt.”


 Posted by at 9:33 pm
Nov 112019

I am quoted in this University of Maryland (Smith Brain Trust) article:


Nov 11, 2019

SMITH BRAIN TRUST – Ancient rulers loved it. Modern investors have, at times, flocked to it. What is it about gold, anyway?

Gold prices have gained more than 15% this year, amid worries about the trade war between the United States and China, uncertainties surrounding Brexit, and signs of weakness across major economies.

In an unfavorable market environment, gold tends to perform well, favored by investors as a so-called safe-haven asset.

David Kass, clinical professor of finance at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, has closely followed financial markets for over 50 years and has been watching gold’s recent rise. He offers some insights on why investors like the shiny metal and how famed investor Warren Buffett views it.

Q: Why does gold appear to be performing so well recently?

Kass: Gold has increased in value recently as interest rates have declined or gone negative in Europe and Japan. Investors seeking a positive rate of return are seeking other asset classes such as stocks and gold.

Q: Where do you see gold prices going from here?

Kass: If interest rates remain very low or negative, then gold is likely to maintain its recent price increases.

Q: How do people invest in gold?

Kass: Investors can buy gold coins, gold bars, gold ETFs (exchange-traded funds), and gold mining stocks. A good source for further discussion on this question is Investopedia’s ‘How do you purchase physical gold bars.’ Gold, a non-productive asset, has historically resulted in a rate of return approximating the rate of inflation. It has substantially underperformed stocks as well as underperforming bonds.

People who buy gold do so out of fear that the economy will get worse in the near future. They follow the ‘greater fool theory’ – that a greater fool will subsequently buy their gold at a higher price than they paid.

What Warren Buffett Thinks About Gold

When Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, spoke about gold during the 2018 Berkshire annual shareholders meeting, Kass took notes.

“Buffett mentioned that at age 11 he bought his first shares of stock.” Kass said. It was March 11, 1942, and he bought three shares of Cities Service Preferred at $38 per share.

Buffett noted that had someone invested $10,000 in the S&P 500 Index on that date, it would now be worth $51 million (for a compounded annual return of 12%). “By contrast,” Kass said, “a $10,000 investment in gold would be worth only $400,000 (compounded annual rate of return of 5%).”

Here are Buffett’s other takeaways about gold, from his 2011 letter to Berkshire shareholders:

1. “Gold gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.”

2. “The problem with commodities is that you are betting on what someone else would pay for them in six months. The commodity itself isn’t going to do anything for you. … It is an entirely different game to buy a lump of something and hope that somebody else pays you more for that lump two years from now than it is to buy something that you expect to produce income for you over time.”

3. “Gold is a way of going long on fear, and it has been a pretty good way of going long on fear from time to time. But you really have to hope people become more afraid in a year or two years than they are now. And if they become more afraid you make money, if they become less afraid you lose money, but the gold itself doesn’t produce anything.”

4. “I will say this about gold. If you took all the gold in the world, it would roughly make a cube 67 feet on a side. …Now, for that same cube of gold, it would be worth at today’s market prices about $7 trillion – that’s probably about a third of the value of all the stocks in the United States. … For $7 trillion … you could have all the farmland in the United States, you could have about seven Exxon Mobils (NYSE:XOM) and you could have a trillion dollars of walking-around money. … And if you offered me the choice of looking at some 67 foot cube of gold and looking at it all day, and you know me touching it and fondling it occasionally. … Call me crazy, but I’ll take the farmland and the Exxon Mobils.”

5. “The major asset in this category is gold, currently a huge favorite of investors who fear almost all other assets, especially paper money (of whose value, as noted, they are right to be fearful). Gold, however, has two significant shortcomings, being neither of much use nor procreative. True, gold has some industrial and decorative utility, but the demand for these purposes is both limited and incapable of soaking up new production. Meanwhile, if you own one ounce of gold for an eternity, you will still own one ounce at its end.”

6. “What motivates most gold purchasers is their belief that the ranks of the fearful will grow. During the past decade that belief has proved correct. Beyond that, the rising price has on its own generated additional buying enthusiasm, attracting purchasers who see the rise as validating an investment thesis. As ‘bandwagon’ investors join any party, they create their own truth – for a while.

7. “I have no views as to where it will be, but the one thing I can tell you is it won’t do anything between now and then except look at you. Whereas, you know, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) will be making money, and I think Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) will be making a lot of money and there will be a lot – and it’s a lot – it’s a lot better to have a goose that keeps laying eggs.

 Posted by at 3:49 pm
Nov 022019

Berkshire Hathaway released its 2019 third quarter report this morning.  The highlights are:

(1) Berkshire’s operating earnings were up 14.2% in third quarter.

(2) Berkshire’s cash rose to $128 billion at end of third quarter from $122 billion on June 30.

(3) Berkshire bought back about $700 million of its own shares in the third quarter, bringing its total buybacks for the year to $2.8 billion.

 Posted by at 9:47 am