Four Warren Buffett Owned Blue Chip Stocks Now On Sale


In the past month, U.S. stocks had the biggest one day spike in volatility on record, and while the percentage swing in stocks didn’t rank in the top five of biggest days, it wasn’t far off.

Since then, there have been violent swings across global stocks, and heightened uncertainty about what lies ahead.

Keep in mind, there was a lot of damage to investor psychology in the early days of this decade-long economic downturn. That has created a contingent of investors that have been fearing another shoe to drop.

That fear leads to under participation in stocks, and it also leads to weak hands in the stock market. The “weak hands” are those that may own stocks, but have little conviction (and likely a lot of fear). It’s this dynamic that has created the sharp swings we’ve seen a few times in recent years, and this most recent decline fits the bill. While the current decline was sharper and more extreme than anything we’ve seen since 2008, the reasons are far from the same. Bear markets in stocks are driven by recession or a major economic event that can lead to recession. We have neither.

In the U.S., fundamentals are solid and improving. For those that argue the economy is fragile, the bond market disagrees with you. The yield curve is the best predictor of recessions historically. Yield curve inversions (where short term rates move above longer-term rates) have preceded each of the last seven recessions. Based on this analysis, the below chart from the Cleveland Fed shows the current recession risk at virtually nil.

With no recession risk on the horizon, this dip in stocks looks like yet another valuable buying opportunity. We’ve had seven declines of close to 5% or more in the S&P 500 since late 2012. In each case, the decline was fully recovered in less than two months. In most cases, the decline was recovered inside of one month. This is an amazing fact, yet many people have been trying to pick tops, rather than preparing to buy the dip. We still have global central bank policies that continue to defend against shocks and promote global recovery (from Japan and Europe) and the Fed should continue its plan to slowly remove the crisis-driven emergency policies that have been in place for the better part of 10 years. Moving away from emergency policies is positive! With that, this broad correction looks healthy and could kick off another leg of a strong run for stocks.

Warren Buffett has famously said a simple rule dictates his buying: “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.” No surprise, he publicly said today that he’s on the prowl to deploy $32 billion of fresh capital to buy stocks on sale.

At our specialty is following the lead of billionaire investors. Many will speculate on what Buffett might buy with a fresh $32 billion. But to find stocks on sale, we look no further than his current portfolio. There, we find stocks that have the “wide moat” characteristic Buffett covets. And after the recent sell-off, some have dividend yields higher than treasury bonds, and P/Es well below the market average.

Below are four blue-chip stocks owned by the great Warren Buffett, each of which is cheap, and with a catalyst at work that can reprice the stock higher:

1) American Express (AXP) is one of Buffett’s “four horseman,” yet American Express is down 20% over the past year, leaving it with a current P/E of only 13. Recently one of the top activist hedge funds, ValueAct Capital (an $18 billion hedge fund run by Jeffrey Ubben) took a $1 billion position in AXP. ValueAct takes a private equity approach to investing and many are predicting that ValueAct will shake up the current management of American Express. The last blue chip stock ValueAct targeted, Microsoft, is up almost 50% since ValueAct took a position — a good sign for American Express investors.

2) IBM (IBM) is another one of Buffett’s core holdings. Buffett owns 8% of IBM or almost $13 billion worth. Right now you can buy IBM at a much cheaper price than Buffett paid for his shares (Buffett paid around $162). Buffett rarely makes mistakes, so this is a once in a lifetime opportunity being able to buy Buffett at a discount. IBM is also dirt cheap with a P/E of 9 (almost half the P/E of the S&P 500) and has a dividend of 3.6%, well above the current yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The stock is so cheap any positive news could send IBM flying. Earnings could be the big catalyst for this stock. They report in October.

3) Wal-Mart (WMT) – Buffett currently owns more than $4 billion of Wal-Mart. The stock is down 24% in 2015. It trades at only 13 time earnings with a dividend yield of 3%. One could argue Wal-Mart is the cheapest “blue chip stock” at a price-to-sales of .42 (the lowest of any Dow component). Consumer discretionary is the strongest sector in the market this year, the only sector that has a positive gain for the year. With unemployment nearing “normal” levels, and with gasoline prices at 11-year lows it is only a matter of time before consumers start spending more, and Wal-Mart is usually one of the biggest beneficiaries of this trend.

4) General Electric (GE) is another large Buffet stake that has a huge dividend (3.8%) and sells for a forward P/E of 15. The real catalyst with GE is that the company expects to return a whopping $90 billion to shareholders over the next couple of years, which will mean a dividend increase and a stock buyback, all positive catalyst’s to reprice GE higher in the future.

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