Berkshire Hathaway’s Earnings Slowed Last Year

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Thanks to its huge collection of businesses — from insurance to railroads to candy — Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is often seen as a barometer for the American economy.

And in that respect, its performance last year mirrored the country’s economic performance as a whole.

Berkshire reported on Saturday that it earned $45.2 billion for 2020, down 48 percent from the previous year, while its operating earnings fell. But while the pandemic had hurt many of its business lines, its profits rose 23 percent in the fourth quarter, as its stock investments were bolstered by soaring markets.

In his annual letter to investors accompanying the results — which Mr. Buffett’s legions of devotees read every year — the billionaire offered his thoughts on the company’s performance, but little new insight into matters like who will succeed him as leader of the conglomerate he has run for decades.

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