5 Great Warren Buffett Stock Picks This Year

As of March 31, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRKA)(NYSE:BRKB) had funds valued at $85 billion. The company held 41 positions during the first quarter, with two new buys and 9 increases in positions held. Berkshire recently disclosed that it increased its stake in Starz (NASDAQ:STRZA) by about 100,000 shares to 5.62 million, or a 5 percent stake. The investment is currently worth about $133 million, and as of March 31 constituted 0.15 percent of Berkshire’s portfolio.

The stock, spun off from Liberty Media in January, has done incredibly well this year to date, climbing more than 70 percent but finding some resistance around $24. Shares closed Thursday at $23.70, about 3.58 percent shy of a 52-week high of $24.58 set earlier in May.

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Earlier in the quarter, Berkshire disclosed a $376 million stake in Chicago Bridge & Iron (NYSE:CBI), an energy infrastructure company that has positioned itself to capitalize on the shale gas boom.

The stock had a rocky April, but shares are up more than 32 percent this year to date, and Buffett’s position seems to have attracted some favorable attention to the company. Robert Baird initiated coverage with a neutral rating but a $73 price target, 12.97 percent above Thursday’s closing price.

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At 19.9 percent of the portfolio as of March 31, Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) is Berkshire’s largest holding. The company increased its stake in the company earlier this year, and the investment is already paying off big time. Shares are up more than 20 percent this year to date, breaking a fresh 52-week high on Thursday. A mean analyst price target below its current trading price suggests that the stock should be running out of steam at any moment, but some analysts have suggested that the stock still has room to catch up to other banks that have returned more than 20 percent this year to date. (Read our most recent Wells Fargo stock Cheat Sheet.)

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Berkshire also increased its position in Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT), which was 4.3 percent of its portfolio as of March 31. Between the expiration of the payroll tax holiday and leaked emails dramatically decrying consumer spending and negative fallout from what could politely be called a labor and public relations nightmare, the company has had its share of setbacks this year.

Still, the stock has returned 10 percent this year to date. Not stellar performance, but the company has made it clear that it is facing a number of substantial headwinds. (Read our most recent Wal-Mart Stores stock Cheat Sheet.)

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Berkshire increased its position in DirectTV (NASDAQ:DTV) earlier this year and has been rewarded with a 25 percent year-to-date return. The digital television provider has experienced explosive growth in Latin America — 28.9 percent year-over-year increase in subscribers — and is cheap relative to its peers. Although it has lagged slightly on the chart, annual earnings growth remains strong, and its international expansion is expected to carry its sluggish U.S. operations. (Read our most recent DirectTV stock Cheat Sheet.)

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