The S&P 500 index has risen nearly 17% year-to-date, while the Nasdaq composite has surged over 30%. Americans continue to spend money, unemployment remains low, and the Federal Reserve is likely to pause its interest rate hikes as inflation rates gradually decrease.
However, Securities and Exchange Commission filings released on Monday reveal that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) sold nearly $8 billion more in shares than it purchased during the second quarter of 2023. While not a significant amount by Buffett’s standards, it is a notable move considering the bullish market conditions.
Michael Burry, known for his role in predicting the housing market collapse in 2008, has also made a substantial bet on a Wall Street crash. Burry’s fund, Scion Asset Management, invested $866 million in put options against an S&P 500 tracking fund and $739 million in put options against a Nasdaq 100 tracking fund.
While many fund managers appear less bearish on equities than before, Warren Buffett and Michael Burry’s recent moves raise questions about their insights.
Here are four factors that might be causing these seasoned investors to be cautious:
- China’s Economic Meltdown: Concerns about China’s economy are mounting, with worries that its weakness could impact the global outlook. China’s consumer spending, factory production, and investment have slowed, and tensions between the US and China have escalated.
- Russia and Ukraine’s Impact on Inflation: Geopolitical tensions, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, threaten to drive up food and oil prices worldwide, affecting inflation rates.
- US Economic Slowdown: Despite low unemployment and decreasing inflation, signs of a US economic slowdown persist. Consumers are tightening spending due to higher prices, impacting retailers’ bottom lines.
- Banking Risks: The regional banking crisis in March raised concerns about contagion, and warnings of potential downgrades in the US banking industry have surfaced. Both Buffett and Burry have shown caution regarding their holdings in banks.
Although investors are cautious, US consumer spending remains robust. Retail sales surged in July, indicating continued economic growth. Consumer spending drives about 70% of the US economy, which shifts the Federal Reserve’s focus toward controlling inflation through interest rate hikes.
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