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Weak Insurance Biz Pressures Berkshire Hathaway's Operating Earnings in Third Quarter

Operating earnings at Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway holding company fell slightly in the third quarter, with a big drop in profits for its insurance-underwriting operations.

But the company posted a big increase in net earnings due to almost $2 billion in gains from investments and derivatives. (PetroChina!)

In its news release just out, Berkshire says operating earnings for the third quarter totaled $2.561 billion, down 1.4 percent from $2.598 billion in last year's third quarter. That works out to $1655 per share, down from $1684 per share last year. While lower than last year, the EPS did come in above the $1509 consensus forecast of the few analysts who formally follow the stock.

Operating earnings from insurance-underwriting plunged 47 percent to $486 million from $917 million last year.

Including investment and derivative gains, Berkshire made $4.553 billion in the quarter, a whopping 64 percent increase over last year's third quarter.

Revenue increased 18 percent to just under $30 billion.

Berkshire's 10-Q filing with the SEC includes additional details.

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