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Here’s How Warren Buffett Explained Berkshire Hathaway’s Bank Selloff

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Berkshire Hathaway‘s (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) annual shareholder meeting and its marathon question-and-answer session have once again come and gone, offering investors another glimpse into the extraordinary mind of legendary investor Warren Buffett. Some of the questions that came up in Saturday’s livestream dealt with moves Berkshire made during the early stages of the pandemic last year — including what led the company to exit most of its banking positions while loading up on Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). After months of speculation, Buffett gave a little bit of insight into what drove his decision making.

Too much exposure

Prior to the pandemic, Berkshire owned a slate of bank stocks, and Buffett seemed to have a bullish stance toward the sector. However, as stay-at-home orders and economic shutdowns spread across the country and banks braced for heavy loan losses, Buffett seemed to do a 180 and exited many of his holdings.

Berkshire eliminated its stake in investment bank Goldman Sachs and eventually JPMorgan Chase, America’s largest bank by assets. Berkshire also sold its position in regional banks like PNC Financial Services Group and M&T Bank. And Buffett appears to be looking for an exit on former favorite Wells Fargo, selling shares gradually for the past several quarters.

While all of this was going on, Buffett and Berkshire pumped more than $2 billion of stock into Bank of America and increased the company’s stake to 11.9% of outstanding shares, a move that required special regulatory approval.

Warren Buffett

Image source: Getty Images.

While we don’t yet know what moves Buffett has made in 2021, he doesn’t appear to have done much, since the cost basis of Berkshire’s bank, insurance, and finance stocks after the first quarter was just slightly higher than it was at the end of 2020.

During the Q&A part of Berkshire’s shareholder meeting, Buffett was asked why he had sold most of his bank stocks last year.

“I like banks generally, I just didn’t like the proportion we had compared to the possible risk if we got the bad results that so far we haven’t gotten,” Buffett said. “We overall didn’t want as much in banks as we had.”

The Oracle of Omaha added: “The banking business is way better than it was in the United States 10 or 15 years ago. The banking business around the world — in various places — might worry me. But our banks are in far, far better shape than 10 or 15 years ago. But when things froze for a short period of time, the biggest thing the banks had going for them was that the Federal Reserve was behind them, and the Federal Reserve is not behind Berkshire. It’s up to us take care of ourselves.”

What to make of this

Buffett is one of the greatest investing minds of all time, if not No. 1, so it’s important to realize that it will be difficult for us to see these moves exactly as he does. And I can certainly appreciate his remark about having too much exposure. Keep in mind, Buffett is managing an equities portfolio of hundreds of billions of dollars, so a few percentage points one way or the other is huge. He needs to think about safety much more than your standard responsible investor (Buffett sometimes refers to himself as Berkshire’s “chief risk officer,” and he did so again on Saturday). But it really is difficult for me to understand all these moves.

Goldman Sachs is not very loan-heavy, so it didn’t really face the same degree of risk as other large banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Investment banks also tend to do better in periods of volatility, and Goldman is working to build up its consumer bank and asset and wealth management divisions to generate steadier revenues. Goldman’s stock is nearly 40% higher than it was prior to the pandemic, and many think it’s still trading cheap.

Buffett’s decision to load up on Bank of America and dump JPMorgan as an even bigger mystery to me. JPMorgan not only has a more diversified business, but its earnings power is greater, as well. The bank is also extremely safe. Its reserves for loan losses peaked at $34 billion during 2020, but the bank was prepared for scenarios where its reserves would have peaked at $52 billion. JPMorgan also engineered its way through the Great Recession better than any of the largest banks in America. Buffett officially eliminated Berkshire’s stake in JPMorgan in the fourth quarter of the year. Meanwhile, the stock is up nearly 21% year to date at Tuesday’s prices, and Buffett likely missed out on even more appreciation, considering he sold the bulk of his JPMorgan position in the third quarter of 2020.

Hindsight is, of course, 20/20, but the numbers are also the numbers, and Buffett missed out on huge gains on his former bank holdings that could just be getting started. Banks are potentially poised for a strong multiyear run, with earnings expected to jump in a rising-rate environment. Buffett did say Saturday that he is concerned about “very substantial inflation,” so maybe he thinks too much inflation may kill loan demand, or that rising rates might reveal bad credit quality. However, cyclical stocks like banks and financials tend to perform better during inflation than high-growth tech stocks, which Berkshire has recently made a bigger part of its portfolio than financials.

Is Buffett done with banking?

Buffett has not abandoned the sector altogether. Bank of America is still Berkshire’s second-largest holding behind Apple. Berkshire also still has large positions in American ExpressU.S. Bancorp, and Bank of New York Mellon. Buffett also may not be pulling all the strings here — he’s ceded a lot of Berkshire’s investing authority to others who may be making the decisions. It has long been known that two of Buffett’s lieutenants, Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, are much more involved in Berkshire’s portfolio decisions now. In addition, Berkshire recently confirmed that Berkshire’s Vice Chairman Greg Abel is expected to succeed Buffett as CEO when he eventually steps aside.

But with all that has recently happened, it does seem like it could be a while until we see Berkshire buy traditional bank stocks again.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.



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Do Personal Loans Have Penalty APRs?

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Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.

When you make your credit card payment late, you’re often subject to late fees and a penalty APR, which is a temporary spike in your interest rate.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for instance, has a 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR, but the penalty APR is a variable 29.99% (see rates and fees). Penalty APRs usually last for at least six months, but card issuers often reserve the right to extend them — especially when you continue making late payments. A look at the terms for the Citi® Double Cash Card show us that the “penalty APR may apply indefinitely.”

Penalty APRs are certainly not a trap you want to fall into, but it’s not something you usually have to worry about if you have a personal loan. Personal loan lenders can, however, charge late fees upwards of $39 per late payment. Whether your loan charges late fees all depends on how good of a loan you qualify for, and that comes down to your credit score, borrowing history and ability to make your payments.

Personal loans also tend to charge lower interest rates than credit cards, too. The average personal loan interest rate for two-year loans is currently 9.46% according to Q1 2021 data from the Federal Reserve, compared to 15.91% for credit cards.

Typically, interest rates for personal loans range between roughly 2.49% and 24%, but personal loans for applicants with bad credit can come with even higher APR — so do your research before applying.

Other common personal loan fees include:

  1. Interest: The monthly charge you pay to borrow money
  2. Origination fee: A one-time upfront charge that your lender subtracts from your loan to pay for administration and processing costs
  3. Late fee: A one-time fee charged for each payment that you fail to make by the due date or within your grace period
  4. Early payoff penalty: A fee incurred when you pay off your balance faster than planned (because the lender misses out on months of expected interest payments)

As you can see, personal loans can be costly, even without a penalty APR. It’s obviously best to avoid paying extra fees whenever possible. That’s easier to do when you have a good to excellent credit score, since you’ll qualify for better loan options.

Select has a free tool to help match you with personal loan offers without damaging your credit score.

None of the loans on our best personal loan list charge origination fees or early payoff penalties, but some may charge late fees.

Our top picks for best personal loans

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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Early Termination of a Car Lease

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If you’re leasing a vehicle in order to save money, but are thinking of terminating your lease contract early, you may want to think twice. Leases aren’t always as easy or as affordable to get out of as auto loans.

Can You Terminate Your Car Lease Early?

In most cases, you can get out of an auto lease early, but you may not be able to do it cheaply.

Leasing typically comes with fees both at the beginning and end of your term. However, if you need to get out of your lease early, there may be early termination fees (ETF), making the cost more than you bargained for.

Additionally, lessors often require you to pay all your remaining lease payments in one lump sum before releasing the contract early. Costs involved with getting out of your car lease early may also include:Early Termination of an Auto Lease

  • Excess mileage charges
  • Wear and tear fees
  • Any taxes not yet collected
  • Any negative equity
  • Storage and transport fees
  • Pay the cost of sale preparation

Check your lease contract to see if your lessor has any charges for terminating your lease early, or if there are stipulations that prevent you from getting out of the contract before a certain time. Even if there are extra fees imposed on you for returning your leased vehicle early, it might be easier to terminate a lease nowadays than it’s been in the past.

Since the pandemic, many dealerships and lenders have pushed into the digital realm to get business done. This includes video conferences to meet with dealers that typically needed to be done in person in the past. Of course, your vehicle still needs to be turned into a franchised dealership to be inspected and processed before a leasing company allows you to terminate your lease contract early.

Is it Worth it to Terminate Your Lease?

The first step is to look at your leasing contract and see if you even can get out of your lease early, and how much it’s going to cost you in ETFs. Then, you need to gather the following information:

  • Your monthly lease payment amount
  • How many payments you have left on your contract
  • The residual value of the vehicle

To figure out a good ballpark figure for getting out of your leased vehicle early, add together the cost of your remaining lease payments and any ETFs. To see if it’s worth it, compare this figure with the buyout price at the end of your lease, and find out what the current market value of the car is by checking sites like Kelley Blue Book and NADAguides.

Depending on how close you are to the end of your lease term, if the buyout price on the vehicle is significantly lower than the early termination price, it may be a good idea to wait it out. Then, once you buy out your lease, you can trade in the car for something else.

If you decide not to wait, how you handle getting out of your leased vehicle early could depend on the difference between the current market value of the car and the residual value of the vehicle as predetermined in your leasing contract. If the car has more value than the lessor predicted, you may be able to sell it for enough to pay your way out of your lease early.

Three Options for Terminating Your Lease Early

If you’re looking to get out of your lease early, for whatever reason, you typically have three options:

  1. Sell your leased car to a dealer – Selling your leased car to a dealer is similar to doing a trade-in, except they pay off your lease contract, including the early termination fees. It’s typically a pretty easy process, especially since used vehicles are in high demand since the pandemic. You may be able to get a little more for a car that’s coming off a lease since the turnaround time on a sale is likely to be shorter, depending on demand. If this is the case, you may even be able to walk away with some cash in hand depending on if the dealer’s willing to pay more than the lessors estimated residual value on the vehicle.
  2. Have someone else take over your lease – Lease assumption isn’t always something you can do, but in many cases, you can transfer your lease to someone else, as long as they meet all the lessor qualifications and there’s equity in the vehicle.
  3. Lease buyout – With the demand for used vehicles at affordable prices up right now, you may be able to buy out your lease then sell the car privately as long as you get enough money to make it worth your while. If you can’t come close to selling it yourself for the amount you need to pay off your lease, including ETFs, it may not be worth it to try and get out of the vehicle early. Most leasing companies allow for some form of early lease buyout, but again, it may cost you those extra fees.

If Leasing Isn’t for You

Now that you’ve figured out whether it’s worth it or not to get out of your lease early, it’s time to decide what to do next when it comes to getting a vehicle.

If you didn’t mind leasing but the car just wasn’t for you, you likely have the option to swap into another lease on a different vehicle with the same company. Many lessors contact lessees toward the end of their contracts to see if they’d be willing to get into another car lease early.

However, leasing isn’t for everyone. If you found that the restrictions that come with it such as the mileage limitations, or cost of maintenance and repairs are too much for you to handle, it may be time to consider an auto loan for your next go-round. If this is the case, Auto Credit Express wants to get you started on the path toward your next vehicle.

We’ve gathered a nationwide network of special finance dealerships that are signed up with lenders to help people with credit challenges. Whether you’re just not sure where to start or you need a little help due to bad credit, start here. By filling out our fast, free, no-obligation auto loan request form, you’re taking the first step toward finding your next car loan without all the hassle of searching. Get started right now!

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GSB focuses on social responsibility

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State-owned Government Savings Bank (GSB) has focused on providing loans to people without a record in the National Credit Bureau system or with bad credit over the last year to help those impacted by the pandemic deal with unprecedented economic hardship.

GSB president and chief executive Vitai Ratanakorn said the bank has extended loans to people with no credit history who have never borrowed from commercial banks or non-bank institutions.

He said the bank had already provided 1.5 million loans to members of this group of people.

The bank has also provided loans to 200,000 people with bad credit records.

Mr Vitai said the lending was aimed at drawing those outside the credit bureau system into the system and enabled them to get access to the loans, which was one of the main roles of state-run banks. This lending has been supported by the government.

He said this lending was not aimed at seeking profit as GSB charged a low monthly interest rate of 0.1-0.3%. For example, if the bank provided a 10,000 baht loan to a person under this scheme, it would only gain interest income of around 120 baht per year.

In addition to its objective of becoming the country’s genuine social bank, GSB’s other goal this year is to prevent loans from becoming bad debts, he said. The bank will rush to help customers in danger of accumulating bad debt to restructure before it reaches that stage.

Mr Vitai said GSB will not focus on growing its loan portfolio during the first six months of the year, but on serving the state’s policy of helping people and business operators cope with the impacts from Covid-19. Grassroots people and small and medium-sized enterprises are suffering the most from the pandemic, he said.

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