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Buffett reveals Berkshire’s 15 largest stock holdings — including Apple, Wells Fargo

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Warren Buffett shared Berkshire Hathaway’s largest stock positions in his 2017 annual letter to shareholders released on Saturday.

The Oracle of Omaha explained how he views equity investments and why he’s bullish on U.S. stocks over the long-term.

“Charlie and I view the marketable common stocks that Berkshire owns as interests in businesses, not as ticker symbols to be bought or sold based on their ‘chart’ patterns, the ‘target’ prices of analysts or the opinions of media pundits,” he wrote. “Instead, we simply believe that if the businesses of the investees are successful (as we believe most will be) our investments will be successful as well. Sometimes the payoffs to us will be modest; occasionally the cash register will ring loudly. And sometimes I will make expensive mistakes. Overall – and over time – we should get decent results. In America, equity investors have the wind at their back.”

Berkshire’s largest positions included Wells Fargo, Apple and Bank of America shares. The letter said the company had stock holdings totaling $170.5 billion in value at the end of 2017.

Buffett said the company’s interest in Kraft Heinz is not included on the list because Berkshire is part of a “control group” and must use a different method to account for its holding. He said the company’s position in Kraft Heinz had a year-end value of $25.3 billion with a cost basis of $9.8 billion.

The investor also noted some of Berkshire’s large stock holdings were managed by Todd Combs or Ted Weschler. He said each investment manger controlled more than $12 billion of capital each for the company.



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Airline executives cast doubt with borders still closed

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A Delta Air Lines Airbus A330neo or A330-900 aircraft with neo engine option of the European plane manufacturer, as seen on final approach for landing at Amsterdam Schiphol AMS EHAM International airport after a transatlantic long haul flight.

Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Hoping to take a European vacation this summer? You may be out of luck.

Borders in much of Europe have been closed to most U.S. citizens and vice versa for more than a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Airline executives on Thursday said they didn’t expect them to open in time for the peak summer season.

Travel industry leaders have pressed the Biden administration for a plan to reopen borders, including standards for health documentation such as proof of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said on a quarterly call that the company is focused on lifting restrictions that have hindered travel between the U.S. and U.K. but that other popular tourist destinations may take longer.

The White House didn’t immediately comment.

Britain this week eased its lockdown restrictions, allowing pubs, hairdressers and retail shops to reopen. France and Italy, on the other hand, reinstated temporary lockdowns last month to curb new Covid-19 infections, and vaccine distribution has been slow throughout Europe.

“When you think about other parts of Europe, there may be some occasional markets open this summer based on southern Mediterranean leisure traffic that people will be interested in,” Bastian said on the call. “But I don’t think you’re going to see continental Europe opened in any meaningful way till later in the year. We’ll probably unfortunately miss much of the summer for most of continental Europe.”

Delta and rivals such as American Airlines and United Airlines have said domestic travel has rebounded sharply from the depths of the pandemic, but international travel, still facing a web of entry restrictions and a lag in vaccinations, remains weak.

Delta on Thursday said its domestic passenger revenue dropped 66% to $2.3 billion in the first quarter compared with the same period of 2019, but trans-Atlantic revenue was 87% less at $142 million while trans-Pacific was off 89% at $62 million.

Naples, Italy, vs. Naples, Florida

U.S. carriers have refocused their once-sprawling global networks toward domestic destinations, particularly those that offer outdoor attractions such as beaches and mountains. Airlines have added service to tourist hotspots in Florida, Wyoming and Montana. They have also seen upticks in demand to beach destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.

American Airlines on Wednesday, for example, announced it would bring its summer domestic schedule to nearly the same levels as it operated in 2019.

Brian Znotins, American Airlines’ vice president of network planning, told CNBC that demand for European summer vacations will be tough to generate even if borders open up in the coming season.

“Usually a European vacation is planned months in advance,” he said. “So people today if they’re looking to take a trip this summer, which a lot of people are, they don’t feel very confident about booking a trip to Rome, and so they’re going to make that hotel reservation in Jackson Hole or Honolulu or Cancun.”

“You don’t expect to see demand just appear the day after a country opens, especially from a leisure point of view,” he said.

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Japan’s plan to dump radioactive water is not dangerous, prof says

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Japan’s plan to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean will have “zero environmental impact,” according to one professor who spoke to CNBC.

Japan said Tuesday the Fukushima plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co or TEPCO, will treat and dilute the water before pumping it out in about two years. There are more than a million metric tons of radioactive water from the wrecked plant, and it will take decades to completely release them.

The move has drawn sharp opposition from Japan’s neighbors and environmental activists.

But Brent Heuser of the University of Illinois said the filtering process will remove most radioactive elements from the water, leaving only tritium — a radioactive isotope of hydrogen — that’s not harmful in small quantities.   

Photo taken on Oct. 12, 2017 shows huge tanks that store contaminated radioactive wastewater in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.

Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

“Tritium is not dangerous in small amounts … it’s gonna be very dilute, it is simply not a concern, the environmental impact is zero,” Heuser, a professor of nuclear, plasma and radiological engineering, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday.

Still, Japan’s neighbors including China and South Korea have opposed the plan. Environmental group Greenpeace as well as local residents and fishermen also raised their concerns.

South Korea summoned the Japanese ambassador in Seoul and is reportedly exploring ways to fight Japan’s decision in an international court.

Over in China, the foreign ministry criticized Japan in a statement for “unilaterally” deciding to release the water, while ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian challenged Japanese officials to drink water from the Fukushima plant.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported Taiwan saying it will continue to express its concerns and closely monitor the related developments.

Polluting the ocean

Reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant were damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011. TEPCO has been accumulating the contaminated water in tanks, but storage capacity will likely run out late next year.  

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said releasing the water into the ocean was the “most realistic” option.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said “Japan’s chosen water disposal method is both technically feasible and in line with international practice.” The U.S. said Japan has been transparent and its approach appears in line with “globally accepted nuclear safety standards.”

For Heuser, there are larger issues about ocean pollution to worry about than Japan releasing the treated water.

“I would say to people who are concerned about this going into the ocean: We dump 8 tons of plastics in the ocean, pregnant women are not supposed to eat tuna because of mercury poisoning, microplastic is in the marine food chain — this is what we should be worried about,” he said.

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Stock futures are flat in overnight trading after Dow closes above 34,000 for the first time

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Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Source: NYSE

Stock futures were little changed in overnight trading on Thursday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed the 34,000 threshold for the first time ever.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 10 points. S&P 500 futures traded near the flatline and Nasdaq 100 futures dipped 0.2%.

During regular trading hours, the blue-chip Dow rose 300 points to top the 34,000 milestone amid blowout economic data. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite gained more than 1% each on Thursday.

“The Dow’s push through 34,000 is a signal that investor appetite for future growth prospects is spilling over into more value-oriented names,” said Peter Essele, head of portfolio management at Commonwealth Financial Network. “The demand for industrials and more cyclically-oriented areas should continue as the vaccines take hold and earnings potentially come in higher than originally expected.”

Investor sentiment was boosted by economic data on Thursday that pointed to a rebound in consumer spending and the jobs market.

Retail sales jumped 9.8% in March as additional stimulus sent consumer spending soaring, topping the Dow Jones estimate of a 6.1% gain.

Meanwhile, U.S. jobless claims dropped to the lowest level since March 2020. The Labor Department reported 576,000 first-time filings for unemployment insurance for the week ended April 10. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected a total of 710,000.

“Retail sales, much like every other data point in the past month, is the polar opposite of the same period a year ago,” said Jamie Cox, managing partner for Harris Financial Group. “The data were off-the-charts horrible, now the data are off-the-charts terrific. It’s what happens from here that matters.”

The first-quarter earnings season started on a high note with big banks reporting results above expectations. Morgan Stanley is set to release its earnings Friday before the bell.

Wall Street is poised to wrap up another winning week. The S&P 500 has gained 1% this week, on pace for its fourth straight positive week. The Dow has climbed 0.7%, while the Nasdaq is up 1% through Thursday.

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