Warren Buffett's Latest Moves: Which Was Wisest?

Berkshire Hathaway's fourth quarter 2009 trades reveal bets by Warren Buffett on solid waste and information storage, along with the selling of some big-name corporate brands. Want to match wits with the Oracle of Omaha on his stock bets?
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OMAHA, Neb. (

TheStreet

) --

Berkshire Hathaway

(BRK.B) - Get Report

revealed in a regulatory filing on Tuesday that as its all-in wager on

Burlington Northern

was nearing completion in the fourth quarter, Warren Buffett was doubling down on bets in the solid waste and information services sector.

Tuesday was a banner day for famed investor cheat sheets, as

Warren Buffett , along with hedge fund managers

George Soros and

John Paulson, filed his quarterly portfolio updates with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Notable in the Berkshire Hathaway quarterly portfolio update was an increased level of trading activity. Warren Buffett -- Mr. Buy and Hold himself -- was more active in the fourth quarter, in terms of sheer trading activity, than a typical Berkshire Hathaway quarter.

However, some of the stocks that Buffett had already begun selling in the third quarter continued to be Berkshire dogs in the fourth quarter 2009, including

ConocoPhillips

(COP) - Get Report

and

Moody's

(MCO) - Get Report

.

Buffett sold 7 million shares of Moody's and 20 million shares of ConocoPhillips, or a little more than one-third of the shares Berkshire had owned in ConocoPhillips. The continued selling of Moody's shares represented about one-fifth of Berkshire's previous level of shares held in the rating agency - and that a good thing, as Moody's underperformed throughout 2009.

Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway may have been stripped of their illustrious AAA rating by Moody's and the other rating agencies in the past year, but the Oracle of Omaha is exacting his quarter-by-quarter revenge on Moody's shares.

Some of the more notable moves by Buffett in the fourth quarter represent the smaller positions in which Berkshire Hathaway doubled it wagers.

For example, Buffett more than doubled his holding in the information protection and storage services stock

Iron Mountain

(IRM) - Get Report

-- from 3.3 million shares in the third quarter to 7 million shares at the end of 2009.

Berkshire raising its stake in

Republic Services

(RSG) - Get Report

a solid waste management company, from 3.6 million shares to close to 8.3 million shares.

Both Iron Mountain and Republic finished trading on Tuesday up between 3% and 4%. Iron Mountain was up 5% on Wednesday at mid-day and was trading at elevated levels, while Republic Services was up a more modest 2%.

Among the underperforming stocks, Berkshire sold 2 million shares of Ingersoll-Rand, or a little more than 25% of its stake in the company. Ingersoll-Rand was unfazed by Buffett's sell on Wednesday, up 2%, but in reality, shares of Ingersoll-Rand have fallen more than $5 since mid-January from a 52-week high - a high share price that Ingersoll-Rand shares had been trading near, as far back as November.

Some big name, large-cap ampersand brands were also sold fairly heavily by Buffett, including

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

and

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

.

Berkshire Hathaway sold more than 10 million shares of Johnson & Johnson, which had been trading near its 52-week high in the past two months. Berkshire Hathaway also sold close to 9 million shares of Procter & Gamble. Procter & Gamble had also been at a 52-week high in the fourth quarter 2009.

Another sector falling out of favor with Buffett was managed care, where Berkshire was a seller of

WellPoint

(WLP)

and its peer

UnitedHealth Group

(UNH) - Get Report

, selling more than 2 million shares of each managed care stock.

With all the buying and selling among the Berkshire Hathaway public securities portfolio, some long-time Buffett favorites continue to receive a vote of confidence from the Oracle of Omaha.

Buffett favorites

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

and

Wells Fargo

(WFC) - Get Report

were net buys in the fourth quarter of 2009. Berkshire Hathaway added 7 million additional shares of Wells Fargo, while increasing its Wal-Mart holding by a little more than 1 million shares.

All this Warren Buffett/Berkshire Hathaway activity at the end of 2009 begs the question, which Buffett trading decision do you think was the wisest?

-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.

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