>As a quick reminder to anyone keen on a handy buck, Mnsr Warren Buffett is your textbook all-time successful investor. He’s the brains behind Berkshire Hathaway, one of the largest publicly traded holding companies in the universe, with a market cap of way more than US$600bn.

As of 2024, WB remains ensconced within the world’s top 10 richest.

We last saw Buffett bidding goodbye to his bud, longtime partner and near enough to centurion dammit, Charlie Munger, who passed just before Christmas. 

Now we find Warren and his shares of Berkshire Hathaway up about +16% for the year after climbing to an all-time high.

But the conglomerate that patience built still lagged the S&P500 by a long way last year.

As of Friday’s close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended about +13.7% ahead – a new record. The S&P500 index ended the year with a circa +24% gain at 4,769.83, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index enjoyed a resurgence, rising 43% to end the year at 15,011.35.

The Nasdaq is about -7% off the record high it clocked in late October 2021.

All three major US indices rose for nine straight weeks to end the year.

Pomme de Terre

While a threepeat for Apple looks unlikely early in 2024, Apple’s stock snapped its own record again in December to end 2023 on another high.

Apple had a minor bump mid-2023 when China’s officialdom snuffed out iPhone sales in a usually reliable market.

But enter some guile in the form of cost-slashings, big sales across Apple Music and iCloud, as well as some healthy optimism on the back of rate-cut chatter – Apple’s shares ended 2023 some +52% for the better.

Now with a market cap of over US$3tn, APPL is worth as much as the entire French stockmarket and more than the entire individual economies of Canada, Australia, and/or Brazil.

Just 5 US firms are valued above a single trillion: Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, and Nvidia.

The Apple wasn’t your garden variety bargain when chief Tim Cook took the reins back in 2011.

Yet the captain’s steady stewardship has seen the share price rise a goodly x16.

Not bad.
Apple fans would know well Munger and Buffett’s playbook – seek ye only outstanding companies at decent prices – not decent companies on the cheap.

This is the logic which has seen Apple today represent upwards of half Berkshire’s entire stock portfolio.

The win has been mathematical.

Staying ahead of the game

Still, in 2024 the platform for Buffett et al to beat the S&P500 the broader market again has been wisely lain.

Berkshire is working with, making it very difficult for any investments to move the needle.

The conglomerate’s cash pile ballooned to a record $157 billion at the end of the third quarter.

“If you work with small sums of money, I think there is some chance of a few people that really do bring something to the game,” Buffett said.

“But I think it’s very, very hard for anybody to identify them. …It’s certainly gotten tougher with for us with larger funds. And I would make no promise to anybody that we will do better than the S&P 500,” he said.

Still, Buffett’s long-term track record is unparalleled.

This last year he managed to top the list of biggest donations in 2023, doling out some 1.5 million shares of Berkshire Hathaway Class “B” stock valued at US$542 million.

The Buffett years

Berkshire, which cuts across 40 industries and 60 companies, has doubled the average annual return of the S&P 500 since Buffett first took control back in the LBJ years.

Berkshire’s compound annual gain was 19.8% from 1965 through 2022, compared with 9.9% for the S&P 500. That’s an overall total return of 3,787,464% vs 24,708% for the benchmark.

Heaps of unwitting Berkshire shareholders became millionaires on the back of Buffett’s canny moves and clock-like patience.

The Buffett USPs

Another factor that makes Berkshire unique is the alignment between the top boss and its shareholders. Berkshire’s shareholders tend to be long-term investors just like Buffett, using their stock as a savings account.

“But what I will promise them is that I’ve got 99% of my money in Berkshire, and most members of my family are — may not be quite that extreme, but they’re close to it,” Buffett said. “I do care about what happens to Berkshire over the long period about as much as anybody could care about it.”

With oil prices down more than 15% over the past 3 months, it might seem perplexing that WB’s already doubling down on Occidental Petroleum.

No Occident: Buffett buys big



Buffett’s belief in Occidental isn’t about the petroleum giant’s good bones – this is a repeat bet on demand for strong, stable energy supply, market cycles and US security. It’s the kind of bet WB’s made before and he loves to trust in the machinery of markets.

Occidental is coming out of 2023 a little battered, the stock is down -4% since for the YTD.

OFC this is no deterrent for W. Buffett – strong businesses with sound balance sheets aren’t determimned by stock valuations – grown ups can perceive an opportunity to buy. At 93, Warren is all-growed up and his stake has now grown to almost 28% of the oil giant.

An ode to America

Buffett trusts in God and the US.

His Occidental wager is a bet on the latter.

The company agreed to buy privately held CrownRock recently for $12 billion for extensive shale acreage in the Permian Basin in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

The stupefying and sudden revival of the onshore US oil industry has been a dormant global energy story, easily masked by the ructions in the Mid East.

But for keen observers, the fact that the world’s biggest economy is now also the world’s biggest crude producer has geopolitical as well as economic implications.

The US has positioned itself to suck up and spit out around 13 million barrels of oil a day, and it could get rowdier yonder before the year is out.

The cunning ways to extract shale oil has gone a long way to loweting petrol costs here and elsewhere, stabilising a fraught world market.

If Iran-backed Islamist rebels out of Yemen (fort example) just go nuts with attacking tanlers in the Red Sea, or shpuld (OPEC) the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries go suffocate output – US producers can step up.

The pressure the US is placing on the cartel is also having exciting effects in watering down its clout – OPEC’s grip on the global market has weakened somewhat – Angola leaving the bloc is the latest illustration.

But with Russia onboard it’s still a beast. With some SPECTRE-like discipline, OPEC could have instant traction in squeezing prices again in 2024.

But like a smoker before quitting, the world is likely to suck up the remaining oil opportunities with vigour, ahead of any electric boogaloo step-change and WB still knows how to dance.