Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B) CEO Warren Buffett noticed Americans are driving less amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
In addition to its massive stock portfolio, Berkshire Hathaway operates businesses across a variety of sectors, including railways, manufacturing, retail, services, and insurance, providing him a unique read on the U.S. economy.
It’s well-publicized that airlines and cruise operators are reeling as travelers pullback because of the virus.
“[There’s] all kinds of ripple effects. And that’s the nature of an economy, so that people don’t fly,” Buffett said in a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief Andy Serwer on Tuesday in Omaha, Nebraska.
The outbreak is also hitting the highways, with Berkshire Hathaway-owned insurance company GEICO seeing fewer accidents.
“I can tell you one thing that’s kind of interesting. We have seen in the last two weeks, for example, fewer accidents reported,” he said, noting that they usually get about 20,000 reports per day.
Buffett added, “So we know when people are driving, yeah, that’s the one that’s got a lot of reporting being done. And in the last ten days, people just haven’t been driving as much. And it’s noticeable that — now, you have to make that weather adjusted and all kinds of other things, but people have changed their behavior.”
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The 89-year-old investor, who has navigated numerous recessions since he began stock picking in 1942, said the virus is going to affect “a lot of industries now.”
“[You] can start with cruise lines, and move down the road. But it will — it makes a change,” he said, adding, “Now, the banks are in generally good shape, but they’re going to change their outlook on energy loans, and a lot of things will change.”
Berkshire Hathaway’s massive $240-billion plus stock portfolio includes investments in the big banks such as Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC). It also contains large positions in airlines, including Delta (DAL) and Southwest Airlines (LUV).
Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.
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