Berkshire Hathaway Inc shareholders on Saturday celebrated Warren Buffett's 50th anniversary running the conglomerate, as the billionaire expressed optimism the company would thrive over the long haul, even after he is gone. Buffett and his second-in-command, Charlie Munger, fielded five hours of questions from shareholders, analysts and journalists at Berkshire's annual meeting, including some that criticized the business practices of firms that Berkshire owns or works with, such as Brazil's 3G Capital. Berkshire holds more than 80 companies including the Burlington Northern railroad, Geico car insurance, Benjamin Moore paint, Dairy Queen ice cream, Fruit of the Loom underwear, and See's candies, and owns more than $115 billion of stocks. Its breadth and depth, which includes $63.7 billion of cash, has given Berkshire a strong balance sheet that Buffett said will help it thrive should the economy, propped up by low interest rates that many expect to rise soon, heads south.
McDonald's new Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook is set to unveil his plan on Monday to revive growth as the world's largest hamburger chain struggles to win back consumers and investors. He'll be aiming to persuade people such as Janna Sampson, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments, which bought McDonald's (MCD.N) shares on the cheap more than a decade ago and eventually held more than 7 million shares as the company spiffed up its restaurants, improved service and expanded its menus with things like fancy coffee, salads and wrap sandwiches. The firm favors companies that dominate their industries, as McDonald's still does. Most financial analysts who cover McDonald's are on the sidelines.
Always top of the data pile, this week will be no exception for the U.S. jobs report with a first interest rate rise likely this year despite a dramatic slowdown in the first quarter. The Federal Reserve has put in place a meeting-by-meeting approach on the timing of its first rate hike since June 2006, making such a decision solely dependent on incoming economic data. "They will need better data to justify a rate hike, and that need is pushing the timing of a policy change ever-deeper into 2015," said Tim Duy, a professor at the University of Oregon and a noted Fed watcher. The Fed has kept rates near zero since late 2008.