Berkshire-Hathaway an all-weather pick
Invest along with Warren Buffett to hold stakes in a variety of franchise stocks.
The overall economic news is looking up, and market action is strongly suggestive of further gains. But the prospect of turbulence still suggests we put an emphasis on all-weather stocks.
And when we think of all-weather stocks, one of the first that comes to mind is Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B).
Buffett virtually coined the notion that you could translate a so-called franchise into public companies.
Franchises are companies that have control over their markets, or at least are close to exercising a lot of control. And to be good franchises, they have to be in strong and growing markets.
Probably Buffett's two biggest purchases in history, at least among public companies, were Coca-Cola (KO) and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the latter being a company he took entirely for himself.
He has also invested a huge sum in another company he wholly controls, MidAmerican Energy. Burlington and MidAmerican certainly satisfy the definition of a franchise.
And each is in an industry that's highly leveraged to a burgeoning sector: growing demand in trade and commodities (Burlington) and the growing need for alternative energies (MidAmerican).
In addition to these private holdings, Buffett's biggest earning center is a bevy of insurance companies, including GEICO, General Re and others.
Insurance may be a peculiar business in which to suspect a franchise can exist, but in Buffett's case, it is probably his strongest franchise.
The edge that he has in insurance is very simply the amount of money that Berkshire Hathaway has. Berkshire's insurance companies maintain capital strength at exceptionally high levels compared to all their competitors.
More money means a greater ability to write additional insurance policies. It means that in a world torn by periodic economic losses from earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc., Buffett's insurance assets remain in the catbird's seat.
So when you think uncertainty, think franchises. These are companies, by and large, that have the ability to gain market share when the economic going gets bad (such as with deflation), or can raise prices when the economic going gets good, or can raise prices even more when the economic going gets inflationary.
Investors should not forget to bet a little bit of money on Buffett, probably the greatest investor in the history of capitalism.
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