Warren Buffett’s greatest hits lose their verve

NEW YORK, Feb 27 (Reuters Breakingviews) – After writing bangers for decades, it makes sense to keep playing them over and over. Warren Buffett mostly trotted out his greatest hits over the weekend in his latest annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) shareholders. It’s a sign the ageing investing rockstar may have run out of new material.

Even though the Oracle of Omaha’s conglomerate lost some $22 billion after tax last year as central banks jacked up interest rates, Berkshire shares added 4%, trouncing the S&P 500 index (.SPX), which retreated 18%, including dividends. It’s a testament to Buffett’s proven ability to ride out economic storms, even though the $670 billion company’s size makes it ever harder to outperform the market.

Buffett’s missive accompanying the financial results was among his shortest, at fewer than 3,500 words, in nearly 60 years of writing them. It also provided little new insight into his methods. He credited some of his success to his 99-year-old partner Charlie Munger, showcased the benefits of time as a “secret sauce,” and explained the virtues of stock buybacks in the right circumstances. These homilies are all too familiar to Berkshire acolytes, as were the praises he again sang to “America’s dynamism.” There’s no shame in playing the crowd-pleasers, but it’s easy to start tuning them out. (By Jeffrey Goldfarb)

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