Robust earnings reports and new money from fund managers may put a bounce into stocks at the start of the week, but the focus will quickly turn to economic news, especially Friday's April jobs report.
About 20 percent of the S&P 500 reports in the last big week of earnings season, including energy, media and consumer products companies. Warren Buffett meets Berkshire Hathaway shareholders Saturday, and his comments would be followed closely, as he discusses the company, investments and also former executive David Sokol's Lubrizol trades.
Warren Buffett doesn't have to worry about Mario Gabelli when he hears from shareholders during Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting Saturday.
"If I look at a 45-year career for Warren Buffett, I have to, as a shareholder, say, wow, terrific. Warren Buffett has built terrific wealth for his shareholders," the chairman of GAMCO Investors told CNBC Friday.
Warren Buffett promises to answer all questions about the David Sokol scandal, and there will certainly be plenty of them tomorrow as roughly 40-thousand Berkshire Hathaway shareholders gather in Omaha.
But Buffett tells us he doesn't expect a "different" tone at the meeting and predicts a lot of shareholders will concentrate on "Berkshire and its prospects."
Buffett concedes that most reporters will be more interested in Sokol. That's demonstrated in the headlines of today's meeting preview stories.
Reuters warns that Buffett May Not Feel Much Love at His 'Woodstock'and quotes a business professor, and Buffett fan, as saying, "He's the best and I expect the best from him, and I think that's why everyone is so disappointed."
The AP writes that Questions About Top Berkshire Exec's Exit Lingerand has some shareholders saying the Sokol incident "demonstrates a weakness of Berkshire's highly decentralized business model."
Fortune's Street Sweep says even though it may seem unfair, Buffett won't be able to avoid "the judgment question. "
Warren Buffett tells CNBC that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is a "very, very smart man." Even so, Buffett says, "I still worry about inflation."
Speaking to our Becky Quick last night at an event ahead of this weekend's shareholders meeting, Buffett said commodity price increases could force businesses, including Berkshire's, to raise prices even if consumers aren't buying.
Here's the clip. Becky started by asking Buffett if he'd seen Bernanke's news conferenceon Wednesday:
BUFFETT: I heard quite a bit of it. Yeah, I didn't hear it all. But I mean, yeah, I heard it.
BECKY: What did you think of what he said?
It's a royal-free Friday on CNBC. No weddings, just our own type of drama ahead of the annual Berkshire Hathaway getaway. Throw in some blue chip earnings and a high-profile guidance cut. Here's what we're watching…
It was just under a month ago Warren Buffett was writing that David Sokol's resignation was a "total surprise" to him and "Neither Dave nor I feel his Lubrizol purchases were in any way unlawful."
Buffett praised Sokol's "extraordinary" contributions to Berkshire, including his "resurrection" of NetJets.
Now, of course, the relationship isn't as cordial.
After last night's report from Berkshire's Audit Committee accused Sokol of misleading Buffett on Lubrizol and possibly breaking the law, lawyers for both sides fired public statements at each other.
First, Sokol's side, from Dickstein Shapiro partner Barry Wm. Levine:
I am profoundly disappointed that the Audit Committee of Berkshire Hathaway would authorize the issuance of its report to the public without the care and decency to ask even a single question of Mr. Sokol. Mr. Sokol had been associated with the Berkshire Hathaway companies for 11 years. During this time, his indefatigable efforts helped create enormous value for the Berkshire shareholders. He deserved better...
I have known Mr. Sokol and have represented his companies in business litigation since the mid 1980s. I know him to be a man of uncommon rectitude and probity. He would not, and did not, trade improperly, nor did he violate any fair reading of the Berkshire Hathaway policies.
Then, Ron Olson, a partner at Munger Tolles and Olson, fired back :
Mr. Sokol was interviewed at least three times regarding his Lubrizol trading activity and contacts with Citi bankers. In connection with the preparation of the audit committee report, a request for a further interview with Mr. Sokol was made to his attorney. Mr. Sokol was not made available.
Watch for more shots at Sokol this weekend at the Berkshire shareholders meeting. And remember that Berkshire is threatening to sue Sokol to get his Lubrizol stock profits.
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Warren Buffett tells CNBC he wants to make his first public comments to shareholders this weekend about tonight's blistering report by Berkshire Hathaway's Audit Committee on David Sokol's Lubrizol trades.
Buffett promises to "welcome all questions" on the Sokol scandal this coming Saturday, when tens of thousands of Berkshire shareholders will be in Omaha for the company's annual meeting.
There's no statement from Buffett in the news release accompanying tonight's release of an 18-page report finding that Sokol violated the company's ethical standards when he bought Lubrizol shares while "serving as a representative of Berkshire Hathaway in connection with a possible business combination with Lubrizol."
Buffett hasn't said anything about the matter since his unusual public letter less than a month ago first revealing Sokol's Lubrizol purchases. At that time, Buffett wrote he would not have anything to say on the matter in the future.
Tonight's report appears to be a response to widespread criticism about Buffett's handling of Sokol's trades and resignation.
Markets quake after S&P touches the third rail. Goldman reports earnings without Buffett on its back. Research In Motion preps its unloved tablet and McDonald's conducts a supersized job fair. Here's what we're watching…
The Downgrading of America: Well, we're not there yet… but markets dipped broadly Monday when S&P lowered the US debt rating to negative, reminding everyone that the ubiquitous budget debate must ultimately become more than a partisan screaming match. We all know default's unrealistic, but is downgrade really a possibility? Let's hope not. Either way, I'm stocking up on powdered milk and firewood. Wait, why are we trusting S&P on this?
Earnings Galore: It's a busy earnings agenda before the market opens Tuesday morning. Two headliners: Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson. The former is expected to report profits of 82 cents a share, as shareholders breathed a sigh of relief when the "bank holding company" repaid its onerous $5 billion loan from Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway . Meanwhile, health care products giant Johnson & Johnson reports numbers under the cloud of persistent recalls . $1.26 a share is Wall Street's target for JNJ.
Playbook for Sale: When a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? Maybe that's too extreme, but don't expect to see lines around the block when Research in Motionreleases its Playbook tablet Tuesday. With its handheld kingdom under siege from the likes of Apple's iPhone and Google Android-operated competitors, the 7-inch tablet is RIM's most important offering in years. Unfortunately for the company, the device was broadly panned in early reviews.
Housing Starts, Anyone?: Maybe it's the historically sour February housing dataor maybe just the broader American real estate malaise. Either way, there isn't much optimism of an imminent housing rebound. Tuesday morning's housing starts are expected to tick up to 525,000. But, the smart money doesn't see a break-out in the sector without substantial recovery in the labor market.
Now McHiring: Speaking of the labor market, fast food behemoth McDonalds is set to stage a National Hiring Day Tuesday, marketing 50,000 openings at restaurants nationwide. A similar initiative by Mickey D's saw 60,000 applicants apply for 13,000 positions last year. With jobs at a premium, the event serves the dual purpose of flagging the company's strength to Wall Street and rebranding the stigma associated with dead-end McJob slang.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett received a $5.5 billion check from Goldman Sachs, repaying an investment Buffett made in Goldman at the height of the financial crisis, CNBC learned Monday.
Warren Buffett has received an unwanted check for more than $5.5 billion from Goldman Sachs.
CNBC has confirmed the payment.
It is right on schedule, but not welcome.
One month ago on March 18 Goldman announced it was giving Buffett the required 30-days notice to buy back the $5 billion in preferred shares it sold to Berkshire Hathaway in September of 2008.
That was at the height of the credit crisis. Berkshire's purchase of the preferred shares, in effect a loan to Goldman, was seen as a vote of confidence in the firm as some of its Wall Street rivals were going under.
To buy back those shares, Goldman has to pay a special one-time 10 percent dividend to Berkshire. That's the additional $500 million in today's payment.
Back in March, a Goldman spokesman told me the total payment would be $5,649,000,000, including roughly $150 million in additional dividends accrued since the deal's September anniversary date.
Why wouldn't Buffett want to get such a big check?