The FDA will decide on Merck’s COVID-19 pill soon, but Buffett won’t be waiting for the news.
In Q3, Berkshire sold 9.16 million shares of the multinational pharmaceutical company, exiting its position entirely.
But the sale shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. Berkshire already unloaded millions of Merck shares in Q1 and Q2.
Buffett’s company also sold 6.13 million shares of drug giant AbbVie and 4.25 million shares of Bristol-Myers Squibb in Q3.
The COVID-19 pandemic gave investors a new reason to check out big pharmaceutical companies, but that doesn’t mean every stock in the segment has outperformed.
Year to date, AbbVie is up about 10%, Merck has gained roughly 2%, and Bristol-Myers is actually down 8%. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is up nearly 25% in 2021.
But what really makes these drugmakers stand out? Dividends.
Each of the companies mentioned above currently provides an annual dividend yield of above 3%, much higher than the S&P 500’s 1.3%.
Financial stocks have had a solid bull run over the past year. And Buffett is cashing some chips in.
In Q3, Berkshire sold 276,108 shares of Mastercard, lowering its stake in the credit card giant by roughly 6%. It also cut its position in Visa by 4%.
Buffett also sold 2.47 million shares of U.S. Bancorp, the fifth-largest bank in the country. But it was just a 2% reduction in Berkshire’s stake.
Buffett isn’t exactly turning bearish on financials.
After all, Berkshire continues to hold more than one billion shares of Bank of America, a position with a current market value of roughly $45 billion. Berkshire also still owns approximately 151.6 million shares of American Express.
At the end of Q3, Bank of America and American Express were Berkshire’s second- and third-largest holdings, respectively.
These established financial firms pay regular quarterly dividends, which can be great for retail investors looking for passive income. And financials tend to do well in rising interest rate environments, making them a particularly timely opportunity.
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