What can ASX investors learn from fresh changes in Warren Buffett's portfolio?

There's always something we can learn from Warren Buffett.

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Warren Buffett is almost universally regarded as the greatest living investor, and one of, if not the best investors of all time. Even though Buffett is well into his 90s today, he still runs his gigantic conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc (NYSE: BRK.A)(NYSE: BRK.B) with enthusiasm.

As such, the stock buys and sells Buffett makes through Berkshire are always closely scrutinised by investors all around the world, when this data is publically released every three months.

As it happens, the latest 13F report from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has just been released, covering the three months to 30 September. So let's take a look at it and see if ASX investors can learn anything from Buffett's latest market moves.

According to the 13F filing and Whale Wisdom, Buffett indeed made several notable changes to Berkshire's portfolio during the September quarter.

What stocks has Warren Buffett bought and sold?

The first thing to note is that Buffett continues to preside over a swelling pile of cash at Berkshire. Total cash and cash equivalents rose from US$147.4 billion in the prior quarter to US$157.2 billion last quarter.

No doubt this was partly fuelled by the torrent of dividends the company periodically receives. But some of it was also funded by some large sales.

Buffett completely closed out of no less than seven portfolio positions last quarter, some of which Berkshire has held for many years.

They were as follows:

The Activision Blizzard exit probably eventuated thanks to the company's acquisition by tech giant Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT). However, all of the other exits are certainly notable. For example, Warren Buffett, through Berkshire, has owned some form of Procter & Gamble stock since 2005. Johnson & Johnson, since 2006.

Buffett also trimmed down the following positions, without selling out entirely:

However, it's worth keeping in mind that all of these sales were a drop in the ocean for Berkshire, representing approximately 1% of the company's portfolio by my calculations.

Buffett did make some acquisitions too. But the only one of note was an initiation of a US$8 million stake in Atlanta Braves Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: BATRA), the holding company of the Atlanta Braves baseball team. Since this investment is a veritable gain of sand on Berkshire's beach, it could well represent a personal sop for Buffett

What's more notable were the stocks that Buffett didn't touch.

The core is the core

Berkshire's core holdings, the stocks that his company is famous for and that make up the lion's share of Berkshire's portfolio, are as follows:

These holdings collectively make up around 70% of Berkshire's portfolio and were entirely unchanged over the quarter. Apple alone accounts for almost half of Berkshire's holdings.

So it's clear that Buffett's quarterly moves were more window dressings than anything else.

What can ASX investors learn from Buffett's latest moves at Berkshire?

It's usually difficult to decipher Buffett's moves and the lessons we can draw from them. After all, Buffett's investing prowess is pretty much unrivalled and what makes sense to him isn't always obvious to us mere mortals.

But I think the focus Buffett clearly maintains on his company's core holdings is of note. He obviously has complete faith in Berkshire's top holdings, evident from his trims of other small positions. ASX investors should be inspired by this conviction and commitment in my view.

Some of the companies he has sold or trimmed down are cyclical businesses though. Car maker GM, postal service UPS, oil titan Chevron and e-commerce giant Amazon are all exposed to the movements of the global economy more than most. So perhaps this tells us something about Warren Buffett's thinking about where the economy is heading next.

But that's just my take.

John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. American Express is an advertising partner of The Ascent, a Motley Fool company. Bank of America is an advertising partner of The Ascent, a Motley Fool company. Motley Fool contributor Sebastian Bowen has positions in Amazon, American Express, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Mondelez International, and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Amazon, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, HP, Markel Group, and Microsoft. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has recommended Chevron, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, and United Parcel Service and has recommended the following options: long January 2024 $47.50 calls on Coca-Cola and long January 2025 $25 calls on General Motors. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Amazon, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, and Markel Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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