Berkshire Rises to Highest Since 2008 as Buffett Touts Growth
Berkshire’s Class A stock advanced $790 to $125,300 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Berkshire last closed above $125,000 on Oct. 6, 2008.
Buffett, 80, ruled out a second recession for the U.S. and said at a conference this week that businesses owned by Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire continue to grow. Berkshire is adding workers as demand rebounds for its machine tools, recreational vehicles and freight space in its railcars. The stock has gained 26 percent this year through yesterday, compared with a gain of less than 1 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
“We still think it’s undervalued,” said Bill Bergman, a Morningstar Inc. analyst. As the economy improves Berkshire will benefit from “the earnings power in the operating subsidiaries that have been hit so hard during the recession,” he said in an interview.
Berkshire’s record close was $149,200 on Dec. 10, 2007. The stock fell to a six-year low of $72,400 on March 5, 2009, as the recession reduced demand for Berkshire’s products and the equity market slump contributed to derivative losses.
Profits at Berkshire’s manufacturing units surged in the first half as economic expansion boosted spending and costs were curbed by job cuts last year. Buffett’s firm eliminated more than 20,000 positions companywide in 2009. The manufacturing, service and retailing businesses more than doubled earnings to $671 million in the second quarter on gains at RV-maker Forest River and toolmaker Iscar Metalworking Cos.
Buffett built Berkshire into a $206 billion provider of insurance, energy and luxury goods and services over four decades of acquisitions and stock picks. In February, Berkshire bought railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. for $27 billion in a deal that Buffett called a bet on the U.S. economy.
“I am a huge bull on this country,” Buffett, who also is Berkshire’s chairman, said in remarks to the Montana Economic Development Summit on Sept. 13. “We will not have a double-dip recession at all. I see our businesses coming back almost across the board.”
The world’s largest economy grew at a 1.6 percent annual pace in the second quarter, exceeding the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, revised figures from the Commerce Department showed on Aug. 27. U.S. economic growth will slow to 2.5 percent next year from a projected 2.7 percent this year as unemployment above 9 percent tempers consumer spending, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News this month.
Berkshire’s third-quarter operating earnings may rise 26 percent to $1,669 a share, according to the average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Berkshire’s Class B stock was added to the S&P 500 in February after the company split the shares in a transaction connected to the Burlington Northern acquisition.