March 30, 2014 Comments

Costco is updated and rated Weak Buy / Hold at $112. It always seems expensive. But it is almost certain grow its earnings over the years. Every time it opens a store it seems to create a traffic jamb, at least in Alberta.

On Friday the S&P 500 was up 0.5% and Toronto was up 0.6%.

This year to date the S&P 500 is up 0.5% while Toronto is up 4.7%.

Our two Strong Buys from January 1 (Wells Fargo and Melcor) are up 9% and 7% while our 13 stocks rated in the buy range are up an average of 0.6% since January 1. The fall in the Canadian dollar has added to the returns for Canadians holding U.S. stocks while harming Americans holding Canadian stocks.

Berkshire Hathaway is updated and is rated Buy at $124. For this analysis I have placed more emphasis on the fact that the stock trades at a premium of only 37% over book value and on Buffett’s view that intrinsic value far exceeds book value and that the gap is widening. To me this looks like Buffett is basically telling us the shares are under valued in his opinion. And keep in mind he has always been very careful not to “tout” the stock and in the late 90’s went so far as to state that the stock was (at that time) not undervalued and was at a price where he would not buy it. In addition I have emphasized the fact that the view of adjusted earnings that Buffett provides annually is understated because it excludes all investment gains and losses, includes only the dividends and not the full earnings from the huge investments in companies like Coke, and deducts income tax at about 31% when in fact cash taxes are running closer to 20%.

I would not expect this stock to soar but it does appear to be a good solid investment.

Earlier this year I was wanting to add to my position in Berkshire but was cheaping out trying to buy at $109.10 (see comment of Feb 3) when it was trading at $112 or so. It did dip to that price and I doubled my position so that it now represents 3.2% of my portfolio. But as noted under March 13 I made the mistake of not grabbing more Berkshire at $112 when it reported excellent Q4 earnings and yet the share price did not initially move. Having done that, I find it difficult to now buy any at $124 but I may do so based on my latest analysis.

By most standards, having 3.2% in a single stock is already a full weighting. But I tend to run a much more concentrated portfolio and believe in Buffett’s philosophy of buying a meaning amount of stocks that I particularly like rather than spreading the investments more thinly, which is definitely conventional wisdom. It takes more confidence to concentrate holdings.

Those who concentrate their portfolio should be aware that most experts argue that it is impossible to consistently pick winners in the stock market and that an index fund is best. Even Buffett recommends index funds for MOST people. My understanding is that he believes that those who can picks stocks successfully (or believe they have a reliable source of such stock picks) can go ahead and concentrate on the best picks. He would also probably warn that most sources who purport to be able to pick winning stocks are not actually able to do so successfully in the long run. But he has always argued that some people can pick stocks successfully by following good logic and focusing on business fundamentals.

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