Buffett Watch is a new feature on TheStreet.com 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, Stockpickr.com. To join the discussion, please visit the Buffett Portfolio.
This blog post originally appeared on
on Feb. 18 at 8:21 a.m. EST.
"I used to be Snow White ... but I drifted." -- Mae West
Yesterday, after the close, Warren Buffett's
a number of portfolio changes.
Since I penned my "
" in March 2008, I have consistently questioned Buffett's
-- specifically, his $30 billion-plus notional short put position on the U.S. stock market. I have also
whether the commoditization of financial industry products has
surrounding some of Berkshire's largest
My critical views of the Oracle of Omaha's investment strategy were not very popular. In particular, the responses I received after I
my Berkshire short in a May 2008
interview were a collective Bronx cheer.
Meanwhile, in the interim interval, Berkshire Hathaway's common stock has slipped dramatically in value from $140,000 a share to $84,000 a share.
"All for one! One for all! Every man for himself!" -- The Three Stooges: "Restless Knights" (1935)
As Jim Cramer
, yesterday's release of the changes to the Berkshire portfolio raises more questions than answers. Specifically, Buffett has surprisingly sold off portions of some meaningful core positions, including
Johnson & Johnson
Procter & Gamble
. Placing a terminal value on some meaningful investments and then selling them goes to the root of Buffett's long-held investment strategy and questions the basic notion that his favorite holding period is forever.
Here are some additional questions that should be asked of Warren Buffett (some of which I hope to relay at this year's Berkshire Annual Meeting), especially after the release of Berkshire Hathaway's portfolio changes:
- Have sales been made because Warren Buffett now feels that the moats protecting the Johnson & Johnson, ConocoPhillips and Procter & Gamble franchises have been flooded?
- If those moats were flooded, how does Buffett rationalize still holding 300 million shares of Wells Fargo and 151 million shares of American Express, two financial companies that seemingly lost their proprietary character and market-leading positions several years ago?
- Why has Berkshire substantially depleted its $40 billion cash hoard with a pell-mell plunge into purchases of General Electric (GE) - Get Report, Goldman Sachs (GS) - Get Report and other recent investments? What was the rush, and why was the cash "burning a hole in Buffett's pocket?"
- Is Warren Buffett seeking a margin of safety in building up cash in light of the precipitous drop in his portfolio's value?
- Has Warren Buffett reassessed his view of the economic outlook over the intermediate term?
- While the losses from his massive short index put position have resulted in ever larger non-cash charges/losses, has Buffett had second thoughts regarding these derivative bets, and has he decided to use the cash raised to hedge the short position?
"Let blockheads read what blockheads write." -- Warren Buffett
Doug Kass writes daily for
, a premium bundle service from TheStreet.com. For a free trial to
and exclusive access to Mr. Kass's daily trading diary, please click here.
When will the downturn end? How can you profit now? Find out at The Traders Expo, a "must-attend" event featuring, among others, TheStreet.com's Helene Meisler of Top Stocks, Jud Pyle of Options Alerts and James Altucher of RealMoney. FREE to TheStreet.com members, The Traders Expo will be in New York City, Feb. 21-24. Register here with priority code 013526.
At the time of publication, Kass and/or his funds were long American Express and Wells Fargo, although holdings can change at any time.
Doug Kass is founder and president of Seabreeze Partners Management, Inc., and the general partner and investment manager of Seabreeze Partners Short LP and Seabreeze Partners Long/Short LP.