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Buffett Watch: The Oracle Sells America

Buffett Watch is a new feature on that will serve as a clearinghouse of discussion and debate about the Oracle of Omaha. "Buffett Watch" builds on the discussion and analysis of the investing mastermind that has long been a staple of our sister site, To join the discussion, please visit the Buffett Portfolio. This post appeared yesterday on RealMoney . Click here for a free trial, and enjoy incisive commentary all day, every day.

Struggling. I'm struggling this morning with some of the things that Warren Buffett is doing with his cash these days. I am struggling because he is selling America, selling Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Procter & Gamble (PG), selling ConocoPhillips (COP) and selling U.S. Bancorp (USB).

What's more American than these stocks? These are not small trimmings. He sold more than half of his 52 million shares of Johnson & Johnson and he sold it at a 20-year low relative to its yield. That doesn't sound like "Buy America." That sounds like "Sell America." Yet, on Oct. 16, 2008, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 9000 and the S&P 500 at 950, Buffett penned a now-famous op-ed submission to The New York Times saying it was time to buy America. Those who bought America that day are feeling ... well, downright un-American. Or at least they're feeling poorer.

Buffett's Holdings
Berkshire's Rating

Mind you, this isn't Boone Pickens selling almost all of his energy positions while predicting oil will double, although that's some benchmark. Who knows why Pickens is selling? I think the market's given him a real whopping. But whenever you say that any rich person has lost money, one whom we respected, you can expect to get corrected posthaste. So, I will simply leave the sales and the facts out there and let Pickens arrive at a story arc.

No, these are sales by Buffett. The "out" Buffett always has is that he buys for the long term. I have no problem with that if you are really rich because you aren't worrying about losing your house or putting food on the table or putting a kid through school. I have argued mightily that it isn't a fair time frame for the hundreds of millions of Americans -- lotsa people -- who aren't rich. However, as long as Buffett was buying and not selling, or as long as he was at least holding, you couldn't knock him.

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