Investing Warren Buffett Watch

  Wednesday, 15 Nov 2017 | 8:22 AM ET

Billionaire investor George Soros dumps large stake in Snap, adds to Amazon

Posted ByArjun Kharpal
George Soros speaking at the 2015 CGI Annual Meeting in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
George Soros speaking at the 2015 CGI Annual Meeting in New York.

George Soros' investment fund dumped its stock holdings in Apple and Snap in the last quarter while reducing stakes in other major tech giants including Facebook and Twitter, regulatory filings show.

The billionaire investor's hedge fund, Soros Fund Management, sold 1,700 shares of Apple, and 1.55 million of Snap stock in the September quarter. This wiped out the hedge fund's stake in both companies, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings released Tuesday revealed.

It's important to note that the fund's holdings in Apple were relatively small, worth just $291,278 at Tuesday's market close.

However the Snap holding is significant. The 1.55 million shares were worth $19.48 million at Tuesday's close.

There is a lot of bearishness around Snap, which has continued to miss earnings expectations and failed to grow its user base significantly. Snap shares are down over 48 percent since it went public in March. Wall Street analysts are also not sold on Snap. The stock has 19 "hold" ratings, nine "sell," and one "strong sell," according to Reuters data.

Soros Fund Management also reduced its stake in Twitter by 5,700 shares. It still holds 18,400 shares of the social media site.

Facebook also fell out of favor with Soros. The investor dumped 367,262 shares of the social networking giant in the last quarter. Soros Fund Management still owns 109,451 Facebook shares.

But not all names in the technology sector were sold off. Soros upped his stake in Microsoft by 99,000 shares and Amazon by 2,500 shares.

The SEC filings only show the change in share ownership of Soros' fund, but no commentary as to his fund's thinking behind the trades.

Major technology stocks have been on a tear this year, although some of the newly-listed names such as Snap have struggled.

Apple, which Soros' hedge fund also sold all its shares in, is up nearly 48 percent year-to-date. Analysts are excited at the potential of the new iPhone X, released earlier this month. Apple shares hit a record high last week.

Soros' position contrasts to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, which topped up on Apple shares in the last quarter. Buffett's conglomerate increased its holdings of the iPhone maker's stock by 3.9 million to 134.1 million, a SEC filing released Tuesday showed.

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  Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017 | 4:37 PM ET

Buffett adds to Apple stake, bails further on IBM

Posted ByEvelyn Cheng

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought more Apple shares before their latest jump to all-time highs.

Berkshire also cut its stake in IBM by 32 percent, or 17.06 million shares, in the third quarter, according to a required quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission released Tuesday. The stock is the third-worst performer in the Dow Jones industrial average this year, down 10.3 percent.

Buffett's conglomerate increased its holdings of the iPhone maker's stock by 3.9 million to 134.1 million, the filing showed.

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  Friday, 10 Nov 2017 | 11:42 AM ET

Any patient investor can turn $5,000 a year into nearly $1 million, says billionaire Ron Baron

It's wrong for people to think that they have to be wealthy to get rich investing in the stock market, famed buy-and-hold investor Ron Baron told CNBC in a Friday interview.

"You have to have a small amount of money and invest it regularly for a long time, and live to get to be old. That's how you get rich," said the billionaire founder of Baron Capital, which has nearly $26 billion in assets under management. He appeared on "Squawk Box" from the sidelines of his annual investor conference in New York City.

"It's all about compounding," he said, referring to the power of making regular investments and reinvesting the returns over decades.

Baron has made billions of dollars by doing extensive research, buying the stocks of what he feels are undervalued companies, and keeping them for an average of about 14 years. But individual investors don't need to pick stocks, he said. "The simplest thing for people to do is buy an index fund."

"If you invest $5,000 a year for 30 years ... it's worth $890,000" based on historical stock market returns, he calculated.

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  Thursday, 9 Nov 2017 | 11:44 AM ET

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett have more wealth than half the population of the US combined

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett have collectively more wealth than the 160 million poorest Americans, or half the population of the United States.

That's according to a new report from the progressive Washington, D.C.-based think tank Institute for Policy Studies. The report, published Wednesday, calls attention to the wealth inequality in the United States.

The wealthiest 25 billionaires have more than $1 trillion in wealth, that's equivalent to the wealth of 56 percent of the rest of the population, or 178 million people, the report finds.

For the report, the Institute for Policy Studies used data from the most recent Forbes 400 list and the Federal Reserve's 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, the latest edition of the tri-annual data available.

Since the Forbes 400 was published, Bezos' net worth has increased another $7 billion, the authors note, so these calculations would be conservative for the present moment.

Bezos is worth $95 billion, Gates is worth $90 billion and Buffett is worth $79 billion, according to Forbes' real-time estimates on Thursday.

"In 1982, a wealthy American needed $75 million to enter the Forbes 400 list. The minimum wealth necessary in 2017: $2 billion. The 1982 price of admission amounted, in today's dollars, to $189 million, less than a tenth of the wealth of today's poorest Forbes 400 affluents," write the study's co-authors Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie. "The United States is becoming, as the French economist Thomas Piketty warns, a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power."

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  Tuesday, 7 Nov 2017 | 11:51 AM ET

Billionaire Ray Dalio: For the 'bottom 60 percent' of the country, it’s a ‘miserable economy'

Billionaire entrepreneur and financier Ray Dalio says there are two very different economic realities in the United States right now. That divide is threatening the nation's stability, the Bridgewater Associates founder says, and it's only going to get worse as technology replaces workers.

"[T]here are two economies. We talk of 'the economy.' Recognize that you can't talk about the economy ... there are two economies," says Dalio, speaking to Recode executive editor Kara Swisher on her podcast, Recode Decode, published Monday.

There's the "top 40 percent" and "the bottom 60 percent," says Dalio. And for those at the bottom, life is hard without a lot of hope.

"If you look at the economy of the bottom 60 percent, it is a miserable economy. Not only hasn't it had growth and economic movement and so on, it has the highest rising death rates, it is the only place in the world where death rates are rising because of a combination of opiates, other drugs and suicides," Dalio says. (Indeed, Princeton Professors Anne Case and Angus Deaton found that drugs, alcohol and suicide are a major reason behind rising death rates among non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. with a high school diploma or less.)

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  Monday, 6 Nov 2017 | 1:29 PM ET

Thomas Friedman: 'We're seeing the end of the Saudi ruling family' in its current form

There's a revolution happening in Saudi Arabia that could change the kingdom forever, said Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist and best-selling author.

"We're seeing the end of the Saudi ruling family" as the world has come to know it, Friedman said Monday on CNBC's "Squawk Box," after the Saturday arrests of four ministers and 11 Saudi princes, including well-known billionaire investor Alwaleed bin Talal. They were detained as part of what was called an anti-corruption purge, in the latest dramatic steps undertaken by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS.

Earlier on CNBC, Robert Jordan, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during George W. Bush's presidency, put the weekend roundup in the kingdom through a U.S. lens. "This would be like arresting Warren Buffett or Bill Gates." Jordan also questioned whether the arrests were a play by MBS to consolidate his power.

"This country was ruled by a family and different wings of that family each got their turn based on which brother," said Friedman, who has reported extensively from Saudi Arabia.

"This is a regime that basically governed for 20 years ... one ailing king after the other," said Friedman, a three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting and distinguished commentary. "That is now over. This is the new way. There's going to be one family."

MBS, the 32-year-old son of King Salman, could become ruler later this year or in early 2018 when his 81-year-old father abdicates the throne. In June, Saudi Arabia removed then-Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, 58, from his role and replaced him with his younger cousin.

The current crown prince is also trying to diversify the Saudi economy, traditionally tied closely to oil revenues, through a plan called "Vision 2030."

When asked how investors or business executives should see the nation after the crackdown, Friedman responded by saying if Saudi Arabia were a stock, he would rate it as a hold, adding that "it's not a buy, it's not a sell, it's a hold."

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  Monday, 6 Nov 2017 | 8:45 AM ET

Saudi Arabia's arrest of Prince Alwaleed 'would be like arresting Warren Buffett or Bill Gates' in the US

The mass weekend arrests by Saudi Arabia could be due to both the stated purpose of cracking down on corruption and a power grab by the kingdom's young, reform-minded crown prince who may soon take the throne, said Robert Jordan, former U.S. ambassador to the kingdom.

On Saturday, 11 princes, including well-known billionaire investor Alwaleed bin Talal, and four ministers, including the one in charge of the National Guard, were arrested, according to various reports, along with a number of former ministers.

Two weeks ago, Alwaleed, who spoke to CNBC in an extensive interview from his apartment in Riyadh, talked about the massive upcoming Saudi Aramco IPO, his vast investments in shares of U.S. corporations and what he called "a lot of good policies" of President Donald Trump.

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  Friday, 3 Nov 2017 | 4:51 PM ET

Author Zweig on what makes Buffett the greatest investor of all time, how to trade bitcoin

Posted ByTae Kim
Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Investing columnist Jason Zweig said the most successful investors are those who can put emotion aside.

During a discussion at the 2nd-annual Evidence-Based Investing conference in New York on Thursday, Ritholtz Wealth Management CEO Josh Brown asked Zweig for his list of the greatest investors of all time.

"It would be ridiculous not to name Buffett," said Zweig, a Wall Street Journal columnist, referring to Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Warren Buffett. He also said Berkshire's Charlie Munger belongs on the list.

The columnist said these two investors have a special innate ability not to let emotions affect their decisions.

They are "inversely emotional and are able to turn emotions inside out," he said. In addition, they are "acutely sensitive to the fear inside other people" and are able to take advantage of it.

Zweig added that Munger, who is also the chairman of Daily Journal, doesn't do anything 99.5 percent of the time, but "when he does something he throws big money at the thing."

Munger invested Daily Journal's assets in three bank stocks in March 2009, when the market hit a post-financial-crisis low.

Zweig recalled he asked Munger how he was able to do that, when the financial world was falling apart.

Munger's reply was, "What would be hard about that?" Zweig said.

Zweig also gave advice for people looking to invest in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

"Make sure you look first at an exit strategy before investing," Zweig said. "Either it is going to be worth nothing or a lot of money."

He said investors should figure out a plan for what to do if the price goes up rapidly to guard against emotional decisions.

"Nothing is as poisonous to rational investing as making a massive amount of money," Zweig added.

Ritholtz's Brown replied, "My exit strategy for bitcoin is to have it stolen from me."

Zweig has written investing books including "Your Money and Your Brain" and "The Devil's Financial Dictionary." He also edited a revised edition of Benjamin Graham's "The Intelligent Investor," which Buffett once described as "by far the best book about investing ever written."

Disclosure: Josh Brown is a CNBC contributor.

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  Friday, 3 Nov 2017 | 9:54 AM ET

College students today value education less and money more: study

What drives you most can ultimately determine your success. And, according to a paper highlighted by The British Psychology Society, millennials pursuing higher education in the U.S. are more motivated than previous generations by making money.

Researchers from San Diego State University came to the conclusion after assessing surveys of incoming college freshman conducted between 1971 and 2014.

Over eight million students in total, including millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers, were asked about their reasons for enrolling in school. They had to answer how much they valued outcomes like "to be able to get a better job," "to be able to make more money," "to learn more about things that interest me" and "to prepare myself for graduate or professional school."

About 71 percent of millennials said they felt making money was important, in contrast to only 55 percent of boomers who felt the same. Meanwhile, 68 percent of millennials said general education was important, versus 69 percent of boomers.

The researchers then looked at the answers "corrected for relative centrality," which allowed them to "see how the reasons have changed relative to the general tendency of students to say their reasons were important." This was necessary because millennials were more likely than the previous generations to list all the choices as important reasons for going to school.

When they crunched the numbers, the researchers found a 7 percent decrease in how much millennials value education compared to boomers.

What this indicates, researchers conclude, is that the quest for knowledge has been supplanted by more concrete motivations, like a paycheck.

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  Monday, 30 Oct 2017 | 11:34 AM ET

Brooks Running sees double-digit sales growth despite unpredictability of sports retail

Posted ByLauren Thomas

In 2001, Seattle-based Brooks Running made a strategic decision to focus on only one category within sports retail, and the company never looked back, according to Chief Executive Jim Weber. That category was running.

For the latest quarter, Brooks reported double-digit revenue growth, boosted by sales of the company's shoes for avid runners, including Brooks' Ghost and Adrenaline footwear models.

Brooks' third-quarter sales climbed 11 percent, while global footwear revenue was up 14 percent during the period, the company reported Monday. The retailer is also gaining traction in the "$100 and above" segment for adult running footwear, NPD data show.

"We've never experienced a more dynamic time in the marketplace and we're working harder than ever to build and deliver the best gear in the world for all who run," Weber said in a statement. "Despite uneven retail conditions, we continue to invest in future growth" in running.

Brooks, founded in 1914, is a private company and now a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.

Brooks' former parent company, Russell Athletic, was sold to the Omaha, Nebraska-based holding company in 2006. In 2012, Berkshire made Brooks a separate business unit, thus Weber now reports directly to Buffett.

Unlike Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, Puma, and other athletic apparel and accessories brands in the marketplace today, Brooks only wants to do one thing well, and better than everyone else, according to Weber. The goal is to manufacture the best shoes and other gear for runners.

When Weber took to the CEO position in 2001, Brooks was selling in a slew of other categories outside of running, he said. But the company quickly regrouped and pulled out of all other business segments, seeing untapped potential with consumers who run — both for leisure and for competition.

To be sure, competition has picked up in the sporting goods industry in recent years, especially as more players launch stand-alone businesses online. And e-commerce giant Amazon has muddied the waters further with its digital marketplace, prompting brands to either consider joining and selling on Amazon.com, or go it alone.

According to Weber, Brooks was halted from selling directly through Amazon a few years back because the two couldn't come to terms on an agreement over "premium brand presentation."

Today, Brooks can still be found on Amazon.com through a handful of third-party vendors, like Zappos. Meantime, Brooks continues to build out its own website, and is testing a concept physical store in Seattle.

Weber said it's increasingly important for brands to have a strong presence online, especially those in his business. In two years, online sales of running shoes went from representing roughly the midteens of total sales, to 30 percent, he said.

Brooks just expanded into China and Brazil this year, after the retailer's successes in Europe, Japan and Canada.

Looking to the future, Brooks aims to grow its brand's awareness among younger consumers, or those ages 25 to 35, Weber told CNBC. And to continue to "refresh" the running category, something Weber said hadn't been done in decades, before Brooks gained its reputation as a running brand.

Brooks just launched its most "reinvented" running shoe, called the Levitate, in September.

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About Buffett Watch

  • Warren Buffett is arguably America’s most-admired and most-followed investor. Buffett is the largest shareholder and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the world’s most famous and most generous philanthropists. Legions of investors - from all walks of life - follow Buffett's homespun investment philosophy: invest in what you know, invest in value. Here on CNBC.com's Warren Buffett Watch, we’ll keep you up to date on what the “Oracle of Omaha” is doing by following Buffett's trades, words and deeds.