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Warren Buffett Cuts Stake in Bank Stocks on Coronavirus Woes

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The coronavirus outbreak-led slowdown has been affecting banks across the globe. Over the past six months, the KBW Nasdaq Bank Index and SPDR S&P Bank ETF both have lost 41%, while the S&P 500 index has moved down 8.3%.

Investors have shown reluctance to take positions in banking stocks. Following the tide, Warren Buffett, through Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.B - Free Report) , has divested 84% of holding in Goldman Sachs (GS - Free Report) and 3% in the Wall Street biggie, JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Free Report) . U.S. Bancorp (USB - Free Report) and The Bank of New York Mellon (BK - Free Report) are some other bank stocks that Buffett sold.

Notably, Buffett reduced his stake in some of the above-mentioned banks in the first quarter amid the coronavirus-led mayhem. Further, banks are currently facing a challenging operating scenario.

In March 2020, Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to zero in order to provide additional support to the U.S economy. For banks, which are among the biggest beneficiaries of rising interest rates, this was definitely bad news. Since near-zero rates are here to stay at least for the next couple of quarters, growth in banks’ net interest income is expected to get hampered. This will also likely result in margin contractions.

The coronavirus outbreak has affected manufacturing levels and other business activities, thereby raising concerns of an economic slowdown. Also, bans on travel and business shutdowns, as efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, have affected the performance of several companies.

Further, uncertainties and the slowdown in business activities led by the virus outbreak have affected demands for loans.

Per an article by The Motley Fool, another reason for the divestitures could be that Buffett wanted to reduce his stake to below 10% in the banks. By cutting down his stake, Berkshire remains free of new regulations, including restrictions on possible business activities that it could engage in.

Given the concerns regarding the coronavirus outbreak, investors remain cautious of investing in the space. However, one can bet on banking stocks that are fundamentally strong and have long-term prospects.

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