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After the Bell: Stocks Up, Buffett Ditches Airlines

John Divine

Stocks staged an afternoon rally and rose to start the week on Monday, with the Dow adding 26 points, or 0.1%, to finish at 23,749. Silicon Valley names led the way, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq rising 1.2%.

Despite the lack of a clear catalyst, investors have been increasingly optimistic about the stock market as a number of states begin reopening their economies in an effort to stem a historic surge in unemployment that's seen 30 million people lose their paychecks in a matter of weeks.

Slow, steady reopenings continue. Florida eased restrictions on businesses Monday, representing one of the larger U.S. states to aggressively prioritize a reopening of its economy. The unprecedented surge in unemployment claims, combined with vanishing tax revenue and health-related expenses on state and local government, is pressuring governors nationwide to allow more commerce.

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Buffett bails on airlines. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (ticker: BRK.B, BRK.A) liquidated all its holdings in airline stocks as the pandemic destroyed both international and domestic travel.

With roughly 10% to 11% stakes in all four major U.S. airlines -- Delta Air Lines ( DAL), United Airlines ( UAL), Southwest Airlines ( LUV) and American Airlines ( AAL) -- Berkshire was a prominent believer in the industry mere months ago. And those sales came at significant losses for Berkshire.

Buffett, who is famously sanguine on the U.S. economy and the stock market, lamented the wide range of economic and health outcomes that still exists in Berkshire's first virtual shareholder meeting on Saturday. Buffett did not jump in to buy stocks aggressively in the first quarter and seemed unenthusiastic about the short-term economic outlook, although he reiterated his long-held view that the American economy is bound to do great things over very long periods.

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