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Why Berkshire Hathaway Stock Fell 7.5% Today

By Rich Smith - Updated Mar 16, 2020 at 4:20PM

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The whole market is selling off, yes, but that's not the only reason.

What happened

Shares of Warren Buffett's favorite stock -- his own, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A 3.75%)(BRK.B 4.02%) -- are taking it on the chin today, down 7.5% as of 3:30 p.m. EDT.

Granted, everything was down a lot Monday. In fact, when you consider that the Dow was down about 13%, Berkshire's loss is actually a bit less dramatic than average. But even so, Buffett is widely considered to be one of the world's best investors, and by extension, Berkshire Hathaway is considered to be one of the world's best companies, and the bluest of blue chips. Given all this, it's still pretty surprising to see the stock down quite so much, even if everything else is down, too.

Collage of an airplane, coronaviruses, and a world map

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

So why is Berkshire down?

The most obvious bit of news touching on Berkshire stock today is Lee Enterprises' (LEE 2.06%) announcement that it has completed its acquisition of the 30 newspapers making up the BH Media Group from Berkshire. But that's a deal that gets Berkshire out of the newspaper business, which seems to be a money loser, and nets Berkshire $140 million in cash in the process -- hardly a reason to sell the stock.  

If you ask me, the real reason that Berkshire stock is down today isn't the fact that it's selling off its newspaper portfolio, but the fact that it isn't selling its airline stocks.

Now what

Airline stocks, in case you haven't noticed, are getting destroyed. In today's trading alone, Southwest has lost more than 11% of its market cap, Delta nearly 7%, and United Airlines more than 14%. (American Airlines, somehow, is up 7%).

Despite that outlier, airlines as a group are in a tailspin, and yet last week, Buffett apparently told Yahoo! Finance that he has no intention of selling his airline stocks (and he owns all four of the above names via Berkshire), despite acknowledging that "it's going to be terrible" and admitting that he "always felt a pandemic would happen at some time."  

In the long term, Buffett says COVID-19 "won't stop the progress of the country or the world," and that's why he is comfortable in owning airlines through the carnage. Other investors, however, may feel less comfortable owning airline stocks -- or owning Berkshire as long as it owns them.

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Stocks Mentioned

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Stock Quote
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
$417,401.43 (3.75%) $15,101.43
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Stock Quote
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
$278.28 (4.02%) $10.76
Lee Enterprises, Incorporated Stock Quote
Lee Enterprises, Incorporated
$18.86 (2.06%) $0.38

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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