Investors may be warming up to the stock market, but they're taking the safe way in.» Read More
Warren Buffett may have a magic touch with stocks, but two stocks have tarnished that touch for the year.
Two stocks that Buffett owns, Coca-Cola and Goldman Sachs, are completely missing out on the market's rally this year. Since Berkshire's holdings in those stocks are so massive, the declines sting that much worse. The holdings are based on the company's most recent quarterly filings with regulators.
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The biggest losing stock for Berkshire has been Coca-Cola. The stock is only down 1.4% this year, which may not sound all that bad. But Berkshire owns more than 400 million shares of the stock so the decline translates in a $236 million loss for the famous holding company.
There are more than 6,000 Dairy Queen locations around the world, but until this week there were exactly zero in Manhattan.
The Minneapolis-based chain, owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and famous for its soft-serve Blizzard Treats, opened its first restaurant on 14th Street near Union Square in the borough on Thursday.
Warren Buffett added to Berkshire Hathaway's bet on Wal-Mart, increasing its stake in the retailer by 17 percent to 58.05 million shares during the first quarter.
The additional 8.57 million shares are worth about $658 million at the stock's closing price Thursday of $76.83.
Wal-Mart shares fell 2.4 percent in Thursday's trading after the company reported anemic sales growth and forecast disappointing earnings. It blamed bad winter weather.
With a total value of $4.46 billion, the Wal-Mart stake is probably being controlled by Buffett himself.
It is now Berkshire's fifth largest U.S. stock stake.
Buffett also added slightly to his company's fourth biggest holding. Berkshire's stake in IBM edged higher by 233,100 shares to 68.36 million shares.
This is an unofficial transcript of Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger and Bill Gates appearing live with Becky Quick on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Monday, May 5, 2014.
A PDF version of this transcript may be downloaded by clicking here.
BECKY QUICK, CNBC: We are live this morning from the Nebraska Furniture Mart, which is one of many Berkshire businesses. Warren, this business in particular, really sees a huge surge of business on the shareholders weekend. What kind of numbers have come through here and how many shareholders do you think were actually here this weekend?
WARREN BUFFETT, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY CHAIRMAN & CEO: We'll do over $40 million in one week here at the Furniture Mart. That's a lot of business. Most furniture stores don't do that in a year, and it's our biggest week of the year. In fact, it's a normal month. We do about $450 million a year at this store. So it's a normal month, and we do it all in a week. And the stockholders get more excited every year. I mean, I run into people in the elevator a month or two ahead of time. They say thank you for holding the meeting, patting me on the back. They want to come on to the Furniture Mart.
BECKY: So you told us before you expected maybe 38,000 people this year. What do you think the numbers were?
BUFFETT: Not any less than that. This was the biggest meeting by quite a margin because we filled not only the main auditorium, but we filled all three overflow rooms and spilled over to the Hilton, and there were people in the exhibition hall. We can never get a perfect count, but I'm sure we beat anything in the past by at least 3,000. And I wouldn't be surprised if we beat it by 5,000.
BECKY: So somewhere between 38 and 40,000 is what you're guessing?
Warren Buffett said "you are getting more mergers that are tax driven" and Congress is "likely to address" the issue.
In response to a question about Pfizer's bid to buy the foreign drug firm AstraZeneca, partially to reduce its U.S. tax bill by moving overseas, Buffett said the trend "will gather momentum and my guess is that when you get to companies of this size, of this prominence, and with the speedup of momentum, my guess is that Congress, one way or another, addresses this. But that could go either direction in how they address it."
Congress might, he said, just focus on the narrow section of the tax code that allows a company that merges to move its tax domicile, or "that forces them to rethink all corporate taxes, we'll find out. But I do think it will get attention."
"This whole thing on the foreign situation, I think, will cause one hell of a fight in Corporate America."
Buffett said he'd like to see all companies pay the same tax rate, but those that would see their taxes go up would "squeal" more than the companies that would get a tax reduction.
Warren Buffett, his longtime business partner Charlie Munger, and Bill Gates are no fans of high-frequency trading.
In a live appearance featuring the three men on CNBC Monday morning, Munger said, "It's the functional equivalent of letting rats into a granary" and "does the rest of the civilization no good at all."
Gates, a Berkshire Hathaway board member and chairman of Microsoft, agreed. "It doesn't seem like it's much value-added because when you really need the liquidity it's not guaranteed to be there... It seems like a strange sort of profit."
Warren Buffett and his right-hand man Charlie Munger brought their brand of slap-stick comedy to CNBC Monday, with each finishing the other's sentences and laughing at their own jokes.
Asked about what drew them together, Munger said that they are both "natural wiseasses." Buffett will be probably be remembered as a teacher, Munger predicted—saying he'd like to remembered that way too, but more likely he's be remembered as a "wiseass."
Buffett said of their decades-long partnership: "We're like an old married couple." They talk only once "every two weeks," Buffett said—adding that he usually calls Munger when he "deep down" knows he's wrong.
With a new CEO in place, Microsoft founder Bill Gates told CNBC on Monday he's excited about taking a more hands-on approach again at the software giant in "re-examining all its strategies."
Gates stood down as chairman in February, but remained a board member. He's now spending about a third of his time as a technology adviser to new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who recently took over for the retiring Steve Ballmer.
"Satya is off to an amazing start," Gates said in a "Squawk Box" interview, following the weekend annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway—of which he's a director. "[Nadella] drawing on a broad set of people in the company to get them rethink how can Microsoft move a bit faster."
Warren Buffett said he's not surprised that some CEOs are overreaching.
Asked about his comment during Saturday's Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting that some chief executives are "operating outside of their circles of competencies," Buffett said, "It's very human when you're at the top of an organization to start thinking you have more powers than you do. And I'm probably guilty of that myself."
He wouldn't, however, name any other names.
Warren Buffett told shareholders that Berkshire abstained in a vote over Coca-Cola's controversial executive pay plan because he didn't "want to go to war" with the company but did want to express his unhappiness with a plan he called "excessive."
Speaking before roughly 38,000 shareholders at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting in Omaha, Buffett said abstaining was the "most effective way" for him to make a "clear statement" opposing the plan. "I don't think going to war is a very good idea in most cases."
Buffett said there's a social dimension to being on a board. Even "independent" directors aren't really all that independent because they often want to keep a prestigious job that pays well and has relatively few duties.
When choosing board members, "They do not look for Dobermans. They look for Cocker Spaniels and then they make sure their tails are wagging."