Berkshire Hathaway Forecast Edges Lower Ahead of Today's Earnings Release
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is scheduled to release its second quarter earnings report after the 4pm ET closing bell today, Friday.
Just over a week ago, the less-than-robust consensus forecast of the handful of analysts who follow the company called for operating profits of $1414.67 a share. (See the WBW post Berkshire Hathaway's Q2 Earnings Release Set For August 8.)
Since then, the forecast has slipped a bit. Right now, it stands at $1370.33. (The first light blue bar in the CNBC.com chart below.)
That's still an increase over the first quarter's $1247.00, but it represents a drop of almost 16 percent from last year's second quarter ($1625.00). It would also be the fourth straight year-over-year drop for Berkshire's earnings.
Much of Berkshire's operating earnings comes from its insurance operations, and Buffett has already warned investors that the "party is over" in that sector. In his annual letter to shareholders last February, he projected lower insurance earnings as profit margins tighten and exposures "inexorably rise" following a couple of catastrophe-free years.
That's been reflected in Berkshire's Class A stock price, which is down about 23 percent from its all-time high last December. Last night it closed at $115,475, after bouncing from a near-term closing low of just under $112 thousand last week. There are other concerns as well, including Buffett's advancing age, and what short-seller Doug Kass calls the "bombs in Buffett's book."
Of course, investors in the Buffett camp don't worry all that much about quarterly ups-and-downs in the earnings numbers or the stock price. Like Buffett himself, they're in it for the long run and right now they see a buying opportunity in BRK.
OnFast Money's Whale Watch last week, Buffett was described as "beached." But the show points out that in the year following big declines like this year's, "Buffett went from dormant whale to ferocious killer - posting average returns of more than 120 percent."
We'll also be looking to see how much unrealized derivatives losses affect Berkshire's total earnings picture later today. Last quarter, the company's net income (a broader measure than operating income) fell 64 percent on $1.6 billion in paper losseson long-term derivative contracts. Accounting rules say those contracts have to be valued at the price they'd bring if sold now. Buffett, though, plans on holding them for many years to come, and expects they'll be very profitable down the road, barring a disasterous collapse in stock prices.
Next week: Berkshire's stock portfolio snapshot as of the end of the second quarter on June 30. Three months ago, there weren't any new names. With the stock market offering even lower prices since then, that just might change.
Current Berkshire stock prices:
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