ResearchThree Things (8/15)

Three Things (8/15)

Aug 16, 2023

"The first rule is not to lose. The second rule is not to forget the first rule." - Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

Buffett and builders

Berkshire Hathaway released their updated holdings in its latest 13F filing on Monday and the company reported additions in homebuilders D.R. Horton Inc., NVR Inc. and Lennar Corp. Many investors view Berkshire’s 13Fs as a way to get a sense of how Buffett and his deputies are approaching the markets. Berkshire Hathaway’s own dominance in real estate lends credibility to the conglomerate’s new position in the sector - the company operates a residential real-estate brokerage and a large network of real-estate brokerage franchises.

The purchases come at an interesting time when builder sentiment experienced its first decline in seven months. Buffett is likely betting on a simple supply/demand dynamic to continue to unfold: high rates are keeping homeowners from selling, leaving new construction as the most appealing option for buyers. 

Spending strength

Americans increased their retail spending in July for the fourth month in a row as retail sales—a measure of spending at stores, online and in restaurants—rose a seasonally adjusted 0.7% from the month before. The retail-sales report mainly captures spending on goods rather than most services such as travel, housing and utilities, offering only a partial picture of spending.

The continued strength of the labor market is undoubtedly supporting consumer spending as retailers of all sizes brace for a level of uncertainty in the second half of the year. “There’s uncertainty with respect to where the consumer goes in the second half, and obviously with the Fed moves, we’re waiting to see what kind of impact that might have on spending,” said the CFO of Home Depot. Cautious optimism is a good way to describe the path forward.  

Hawaiian backlash

Shares of Hawaiian Electric tumbled to start the week over concerns surrounding the company’s potential liability in the deadly wildfires that burnt through the coastal Maui town of Lahaina. A Washington Post report raised questions over whether the company took sufficient safety measures amid warnings days before the fires broke out that wind gusts would trigger dangerous fire conditions.

Although the cause of the wildfires is still being investigated, this is a sell first, ask questions later scenario for investors. Should Hawaiian Electric be at fault, the class action lawsuit representing thousands of residents could cripple the company’s operations for decades.

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