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Warren Buffett Spends Big as Stock Market Sells Off

The stock market’s selloff has been bad news for most investors.

The Omaha-based company bought 901,768 shares of

Occidental Petroleum Corp.


OXY 8.21%

last week, according to a regulatory filing. The move likely makes Occidental, in which Berkshire began buying shares in late February, one of its 10 biggest holdings.

In the past few months, Berkshire has also boosted its stake in

Chevron Corp.


CVX 1.92%

, placed a merger-arbitrage bet on

Activision Blizzard Inc.


ATVI 0.47%

, bought an 11% stake in

HP Inc.


HPQ 2.62%

and continued adding to its position in Apple Inc., its biggest stockholding. 

Investors will get a look at what else Berkshire has been buying—as well as what it has been selling—when it files what is known as Form 13F with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. The SEC requires all institutional investors that manage more than $100 million to file the form within 45 days of the end of each quarter. Because institutions must disclose their equity holdings on the form, as well as the size and market value of each position, investors often use 13Fs to gauge how large money managers are playing the stock market.

One takeaway from Berkshire’s filing is likely to be this: The market’s tumult has allowed the company to go on a spending spree.

Mr. Buffett, a longtime practitioner of value investing, has long advised that investors “be greedy when others are fearful.” That philosophy was likely difficult to practice for much of the past two years, during which investors’ mood largely seemed anything but fearful. Now that the market is slumping, Berkshire is in a prime position to add to its mammoth stock portfolio, investors say.

“Cash is dry powder, and he has a lot of it,” said

Rupal Bhansali,

chief investment officer for global equities at Ariel Investments, of Mr. Buffett. Ms. Bhansali manages Ariel’s global mutual fund, which owns Berkshire shares.

Ms. Bhansali, among others, also believes that Berkshire’s investments in Chevron and Occidental might reflect a bet that commodities prices will stay elevated for some time.

Energy stocks have been by far the best-performing group in the S&P 500 this year, benefiting from a surge in commodities prices that began after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raised concerns about disruptions to oil and gas supply lines. Chevron shares are up 43% this year, while Occidental shares have gone up 121%. In comparison, the S&P 500 has fallen 16%.

“They’re clearly owning companies that are likely to be an inflation hedge,” Ms. Bhansali said.

Energy stocks also offer two characteristics that Mr. Buffett has traditionally gravitated toward: low valuations, as well as shareholder returns in the form of buybacks and dividends, said

Jim Shanahan,

senior equity research analyst at Edward Jones.

Dividend-paying stocks have outperformed the S&P 500 this year, in part as investors whipsawed by market volatility have sought out stocks that can offer steady cash returns. 

“It fits the profile,” Mr. Shanahan said of Berkshire’s Chevron and Occidental share purchases. 

With stock volatility remaining elevated, many investors and analysts expect Mr. Buffett, as well as Berkshire portfolio managers

Ted Weschler

and

Todd Combs,

to keep putting cash to work in the market over the coming months.

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Berkshire ended last year with a mountain of cash on its hands—not necessarily out of a desire to build up its war chest, but because it had been impossible to find companies that seemed worth investing in for the long term, Mr. Buffett said to shareholders in his annual letter sent out in February. It had $106.3 billion in cash as of March 31, down from $146.7 billion at the end of 2021.

This year has changed that. With tightening monetary policy, slowing economic growth and sustained supply-chain disruptions putting markets on edge, Mr. Buffett is in his element, said David Kass, a finance professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

“This is what I’d consider to be Warren Buffett’s sweet spot,” Mr. Kass said. “The almost wholesale selling in the market has provided Berkshire an opportunity to buy securities at bargain prices.”

Write to Akane Otani at akane.otani@wsj.com

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