It’s been a tough few days for Warren Buffett.
Last week, a relatively unknown day trader gained national fame. This trader tweeted “There’s nobody who can argue that Warren Buffett is better at the stock market than I am right now. I’m better than he is. That’s a fact.”
Now, the Financial Times has published an article that seeks to answer the question – has Mr. Buffett lost his touch?
The article points out that Buffett, through his ownership of Berkshire Hathaway, had his worst performance in the last decade compared to the S&P 500 in 2019, and “2020 is shaping up to be nearly as bad.”
The article continues, “Instead of taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis that hit markets in March, Mr. Buffett was a casualty. Instead of highlighting Berkshire’s balance sheet strength, the crisis exacerbated longstanding concerns over the company’s direction.”
Cathy Seifert, an analyst at CFRA Research who covers Berkshire Hathaway, says two deals in particular stand out. The first is the $3 billion write-down of its investment in food producer Kraft Heinz, and the second is the $10 billion invested in oil producer Occidental Petroleum. That company is no longer paying a dividend and Berkshire’s 80 million stock warrants look worthless with the stock now trading below $2 per share.
“Those two things, I believe, have really tarnished Berkshire’s reputation for dealmaking,” Seifert said, adding that the Occidental deal “was an unmitigated disaster.”
Then of course there is Buffett’s selling of all US airline stocks, where Berkshire took a $50 million loss. Buffett made the announcement at the annual Berkshire meeting in early May. After this, shares of American, United, Delta and Southwest plunged. Since then, airline stocks have recovered with American up 86%, Delta up 52%, United up 76% and Southwest up 38%.
James Shanahan, an analyst with Edward Jones said “I am nervous that he may have missed this whole rally. If the rally started in late March and he was a net seller in April, it seems like . . . he missed it all. That’s frustrating. A lot of retail investors were ploughing money into the market and doing better than professional investors. I think you can include Buffett in that.”
Even Bill Ackman, the founder of Pershing Square, who has been a longtime admirer of Warren Buffett, sold his Berkshire shares. He did so believing that he can be more nimble and generate higher returns elsewhere.
Is that value investing – Buffett’s preferred style of investing – is no longer viable in today’s markets? Perhaps, says Christopher Rossbach, chief investment officer of J Stern & Co, a longtime Berkshire stockholder.
“If Berkshire is to have the prospects of generating the value it has in the past, it has to adapt by buying these companies that will generate significant value over the next 25 years,” said Rossbach, adding, “Both Warren and Charlie (Munger) have acknowledged that they have missed Amazon and that they should be looking at these companies but they have also said they don’t understand them. They have kept them in the box that Warren has on his desk that says ‘Too hard’. What will it take for them to take these stocks out of the box?”
At least one investor believes that Buffett may have the last laugh, should the country face a second round of economic troubles due to the coronavirus pandemic. In that instance, Buffett’s caution could be viewed in a more positive light.
Thomas Russo, a managing member of Gardner Russo & Gardner, says “Berkshire Hathaway remains designed to reward investors over time but not on time. “It is one of the reasons we say to people, ‘Don’t be in a hurry to spend that money. If you rush it, he could make a mistake.’”
5 Little-Known Ways To Lower Your Taxes
Everyone loves to pay lower taxes, but very few people understand or take advantage of all the tax breaks that are available to them. Here’s a list of 5 little-known tax breaks that you can use to help lower your tax bill.
1. Pay No Capital Gains Tax
If you sell an asset you’ve owned for more than a year, you pay long-term capital gains tax of either 0%, 15% or 20%. This is a favorable tax treatment when compared to selling assets you’ve owned for less than a year, which are taxed at the same rate as your ordinary income.
But, it’s possible to pay no capital gains tax when selling your long-held assets like stocks and bonds or mutual funds. In order to pay no capital gains tax, your taxable income needs to be less than $39,375 if you are single or $78,750 if you are married when filing your 2019 taxes. For the 2020 tax year, those numbers jump slightly to $40,000 and $80,000.
2. Earned Income Tax Credit
This program directly benefits those with low-to-moderate incomes, and particularly those with children. A single filer would need an adjusted gross income of $15,570 or less to benefit, but for a married individual with three children, the adjusted gross income limit is as high as $55,952. In certain situations where your EITC benefit exceeds the amount of taxes you owe, you would receive a tax refund.
3. Deduct Your Retirement Account Contributions
If you are putting money aside in a traditional IRA as part of your retirement plan, you can contribute up to $6000 per year. If you aren’t part of a retirement plan through work – like a 401(k) – you can deduct all of your contributions no matter what tax bracket you are in. Non-working spouses (or spouses making very little income) can contribute up to $6,000 ($7,000 if 50 or older) into their own IRA account as long as the working spouse has enough earned income to cover both contributions. There are limits to the deductions as income increases, so check with a tax adviser.
4. Saver’s Tax Credit
If you are a single filer with adjusted gross income less than $32,000 (or $64,000 if married) you claim a tax credit (a credit, not deduction – more on this in a moment) of 10%, 20% or 50% of the first $2,000 you put into a retirement account ($4,000 for married filers). The lower your income, the higher the credit amount. Unlike a deduction that lowers your taxable income, a credit reduces the amount of taxes you owe on a dollar-for-dollar ratio. So a $2,000 tax credit reduces your taxes by $2,000.
5. Lifetime Learning Credit
If you are interested in continuing your education, you can utilize the Lifetime Learning Credit. This allows you to go back and study nearly any topic, at any school, you can get back 20% of up to $10,000 in expenses per year. The income limits are $68,000 for single filers and $136,000 for married filers. Now go back and enroll in that art class you always wished you had taken!
Trump Says Economy ‘Roaring Back’ in June As 4.8 Million Jobs Added
The economy added back 4.8 million jobs last month, according to the government’s June jobs report released yesterday. That handily beat the 3.7 million jobs forecasted by economists and dropped the unemployment rate down to 11.1%.
After the report was released, President Trump said the economy was “extremely strong” and “roaring back” after the country has regained more than 7.5 million jobs in the last two months. Trump added that the economy will keep growing unless voters elected Democrat Joe Biden in November. He said Biden would raise taxes and hurt the economy and the stock market would “drop down to nothing.”
Of the jobs added back in June, bars and restaurants hired – or rehired – 1.48 million workers. This comes as many reopened for outdoor dining in the early phases of the reopening. They brought back a similar number of workers in May. It happened after shedding more than 6 million jobs due to the pandemic.
The retail sector regained 740,000 jobs, healthcare added back 358,000 workers, and manufacturing saw 356,000 jobs added.
The energy sector continues to be battered by low oil prices amidst the economic slowdown. Additionally, that industry shed an additional 10,000 jobs last month.
The return of lower-paying jobs like those found in the restaurant and hospitality industry dragged down the average hourly wages for the second straight month.
Many are cautioning against reading too much into reports like average hourly wages while the economy is in such turmoil.
Stephen Stanley, chief economist of Amherst Pierpont Securities, says, “The wage figures will be pretty much useless for a long while until the labor market gets back to some semblance of normality.”
Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist of the job site Glassdoor, also gave an explanation. He added, “Today’s positive jobs report does provide a powerful signal of how swiftly U.S. job growth can bounce back and how rapidly businesses can reopen once the nation finally brings the coronavirus under control — a reason for optimism in coming months.”
Unfortunately for many of the workers recently rehired to work in bars and restaurants, the recent spike in new coronavirus cases could lead to those jobs quickly being lost for a second time. Bars in many states are being shut down again in an effort to curb the growing number of cases.
The unemployment rate fell for the second straight month. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is trying to fix a reporting error that, if corrected, would increase the unemployment rate by 1%.
The problem is how households respond to the monthly survey that is used to calculate the unemployment rate. The jobless rate would have been 1 point higher if not for continued problems in how respondents answer the question about their employment status.
What many consider the “real” unemployment rate, which is the U6 rate, includes workers who can only find part-time jobs. It also includes those who’ve become too discouraged to look for jobs because so few are available. Using that measurement, the unemployment rate stands at 18% in June, down from 21.2% in May.
Trump Favors Larger Stimulus Checks, Says ‘Tremendous’ Market Crash if Biden Wins
In a wide-ranging interview with Fox Business News, President Trump mentioned his support for another round of stimulus checks and says should Joe Biden win the election in November, we should expect the stock market to crash “a tremendous amount.”
On Stimulus Checks
Speaking with Blake Burman, the president says he is in favor of another round of stimulus checks, but wants to make sure that there is a financial incentive for Americans to return to work.
“I support it, but it has to be done properly. I support actually larger numbers than the Democrats, but it’s got to be done properly. We had something where it gave you a disincentive to work last time. And it was still money going to people, and helping people, so I was all for that. But we want to create a very great incentive to work.”
Trump also mentioned he wants the checks to arrive quickly and spent quickly, without the Democrats adding complications.
“I want the money getting to people to be larger so they can spend it, I want the money to get there quickly and in a non-complicated fashion. And they wanted to make it too complicated, also it was an incentive not to go to work,” said Trump.
Returning to work is what hard-working Americans are looking forward to, says Trump, and he wants there to be a financial incentive to do so.
“You’d make more money if you don’t go to work. That’s not what the country is all about. And people didn’t want that. They wanted to go to work but it didn’t make sense because they make more money if they didn’t… we want people to get out and we want to create a tremendous incentive for people to want to go back to work.”
On Biden and Taxes
When asked about Joe Biden’s recently announced plans to raise corporate taxes if he becomes President, Trump said “You’re going to crash the market. 401(k)s will be down the tubes, the wealth of the country will be down.”
He added “That will kill the market. It will kill everything we are doing, it will kill jobs, and it will be very bad. Frankly, the stock market is doing well, but it’s an overhang. If he got elected, and they say this, that’s an overhang over the market, because the market would crash. Would absolutely crash.”
When asked what he means by crash, Trump responded, “Markets would go down by tremendous amounts. He’d raise taxes, he’d raise regulations. Look, one of the biggest things I’ve done is I’ve cut regulations more than any President in history. We still have regulations, but they’re much less. His people, the people around him (Biden) are radical left. They’re going to raise taxes, they’re going to raise regulations, and they’re going to put everyone out of business. It would be a disaster.”
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