For Warren Buffett, 2003 was business as usual: new acquisitions, steady growth and an increase in low-cost float that looks to fuel Berkshire Hathaway's (BRKa:NYSE) growth well into the next decade.

In one of the most awaited investment treatises of the year, Buffett's annual letter to shareholders -- released on his Web site Saturday morning -- the Oracle of Omaha touted the power, and limits, of his cash position. At the same time, he detailed Berkshire's performance in 2003.

According to Buffett, Berkshire's net worth grew by $13.6 billion, increasing the per-share value of Berkshire stock by 21%. While that performance is impressive, Buffett notes the results failed to eclipse those of the S&P 500, which posted a total return of 28.7% in the same period. However, he does note that over the last 39 years, Berkshire's book value has posted a compounded annual return of 22.2%, which more than doubles the closely followed equity benchmark's 10.4% annualized total return.

He notes how significant the benchmark is in measuring his value to Berkshire shareholders. "Berkshire's long-term performance versus the S&P remains all-important," Buffett writes in the early paragraphs of this year's missives. "Our shareholders can buy the S&P through an index fund at very low cost. Unless we achieve gains in per-share intrinsic value in the future that outdo the S&Ps performance, Charlie and I will be adding nothing to what you can accomplish on your own."

Yes, but investors are flocking to the Berkshire Hathaway site today not to determine Buffett's relative financial value, but rather his value as the Oracle of Omaha, the chief executive that large and small investors turn to the first Saturday in March for his views on the markets, corporate ethics and even kernels of wisdom about life.

For many, the first Saturday in March is their chance to get an MBA from Professor Buffett.

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