Berkshire Hathaway is cautious about the banking sector and has sold bank shares in the past six months. They still own Bank of America but are wary of the system and banking regulations. First Republic’s heavy losses in government-guaranteed debt have highlighted the risks of unguaranteed home loans in the banking industry.
Ladies and gentlemen, today we bring you some banking news that really tickles my funny bone. As you may know, Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, mentioned that Berkshire Hathaway is cautious about its banking sector. But why, you might ask? Well, let me explain. Buffett said the news flow surrounding federally insured deposits is scant. The public remained confused about what would happen if a bank failed, and the media, bless their hearts, was of little help. I’ve even seen bank failures. Some may think that the bank is in trouble, that the system is not working. But we are confident in our banking sector. The US government and US people don’t care that banks fail, and people actually lose their deposits. There was a demonstration project at Silicon Valley Bank over the weekend, but the public is still confused.
As of the end of 2022, 89% of SVB’s $175 billion deposits were uninsured, while the US banking system, in its infinite wisdom, protected depositors with a “systemic risk exemption.” This exemption applied even to depositors with accounts greater than $250,000. As you know, Berkshire has about $128 billion in cash and Treasury bills. If the banking system somehow temporarily malfunctions, we want to be there. Buffett said one reason we’re cautious is that the bank regulatory stimulus is “messed up.” First Republic Bank, the last US community bank to fail, announced in its annual report that it is offering jumbo-sized unguaranteed home loans at fixed interest rates. Referring to his father’s loss of his job in a bank run in 1931, Buffett said, “That’s what the First Republic did, it’s blatant, and the world ignored it until it exploded. “Bank regulation incentives are so messed up, and so many people are interested in screwing them up.” That’s why we’re very cautious about ownership in situations like this.”
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not completely out of the banking sector yet. We still own Bank of America, and Buffett is happy with that, he said. However, it has sold bank shares in the last six months after selling some when the pandemic hit. Buffett sits behind a sign that says “Available for Sale” to comment, while his longtime business partner Charlie Munger sits behind a “Hold to maturity” sign to warn the bank that the regional banking crisis is on its way. Seized by regulators and sold to JP Morgan, First Republic suffered heavy losses in its held-to-maturity investment portfolio, primarily government-guaranteed debt.
I know some people are worried about their money at their local bank. But Buffett isn’t personally concerned about local banks. “I have my own money. It’s probably over the FDIC limit. I keep it in my local bank, but I’m not at all concerned.” Berkshire Hathaway is cautious in its banking sector, but we are still there, and I’m sure the system will work for many years. Thank you for your attention. We look forward to bringing you more news in the future.
It was quite an emotional roller coaster. First, we hear that Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway are wary of the banking sector. Then I heard they were still stuck with Bank of America and didn’t personally care about their money at their local bank. The fact is that the message around deposits has been bad and has caused panic among depositors and three mid-sized banks since March. I don’t know about you, but I suddenly had the urge to hide all my money under my mattress. Just kidding, I stick to trusted banks. Or do I? More and more banks seem to be taking risks with unguaranteed home loans and fixed interest rates. Is this a ticking time bomb waiting to explode in the face of the banking industry? Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure, Warren Buffett’s dry wit and blunt honesty will keep us entertained and informed.