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Berkshire Hathaway ready for aging Buffett to go, he says – Raw Story

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Octogenarian billionaire Warren Buffett assured shareholders on Saturday that his Berkshire Hathaway empire, with holdings in major American firms, is ready for him and his longtime partner Charlie Munger, 96, to go.

But he did not name a successor.

Dubbed the “Oracle of Omaha,” Buffett is known for his track record of brilliant investing but also for his folksy and humble persona, as well as his philanthropy.

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“Charlie and I long ago entered the urgent zone,” Buffett, 89, quipped in his annual letter to shareholders.

“That’s not exactly great news for us. But Berkshire shareholders need not worry: Your company is 100 percent prepared for our departure.”

Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, cited several factors for his optimism.

“We possess skilled and devoted top managers for whom running Berkshire is far more than simply having a high-paying and/or prestigious job,” he said, adding that its assets are deployed in “an extraordinary variety” of businesses.

At an annual shareholders’ meeting last May, Buffett gave a clue as to who might follow him, when he said that Gregory Able and Ajit Jain would in the near future join him and Munger on the stage to answer questions.

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Able, 57, and Jain, 67, had been promoted to the board of directors the previous year.

“Charlie and I have very pragmatic reasons for wanting to assure Berkshire’s prosperity in the years following our exit,” Buffett said in the letter published Saturday.

“The Mungers have Berkshire holdings that dwarf any of the family’s other investments, and I have a full 99 percent of my net worth lodged in Berkshire stock.”

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Buffett added that he has never sold any shares — and has no plans to do so.

Berkshire Hathaway has holdings in companies including American Express, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Apple and Coca-Cola. It is also active in sectors like insurance, through Geico; rail, with BNSF; and energy, via PacifiCorp.

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It also has a stake in Amazon.

Along with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates, Buffett in 2010 launched the “Giving Pledge,” in which billionaires promise to give at least half their wealth to philanthropic causes.

Last year Buffett announced that he had donated $3.6 billion worth of Berkshire Hathaway stock to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four other charities, meaning that he had given a total of about $34 billion to the five foundations.

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He and Gates have expressed concern about America’s severe wealth inequality.

Forbes said in its rankings last year that Buffett was worth $82.5 billion.

He continues to live in a relatively modest house about 10 minutes outside downtown Omaha, Nebraska that he bought in 1958.

In the letter, Buffett underlined that his will directs executors and trustees “not to sell any Berkshire shares.”

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The will orders that each year a portion of his Class A shares be converted to Class B shares that would then be distributed “to various foundations,” Buffett said.

“I estimate that it will take 12 to 15 years for the entirety of the Berkshire shares I hold at my death to move into the market.”

Buffet reported that Berkshire Hathaway’s operating earnings were largely unchanged in 2019.

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Bank of Canada keeps key interest rate on hold – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

Canada’s central bank has sent a warning that increases in the cost of living would continue into next year, but signalled it wasn’t yet prepared to pull its key lever to rein in inflation.

The annual pace of inflation in October rose to 4.7 per cent, a pandemic-era high and the fastest year-over-year gain in the consumer price index in 18 years.

The Bank of Canada said high inflation rates will continue through the first half of next year, but should by the second half of 2022 fall back to its comfort zone of between one and three per cent.

By the end of next year, the bank is forecasting the annual inflation rate to fall to 2.1 per cent.

While the path for inflation and the economy are largely following the central bank’s expectations, the statement released Wednesday said the bank “is closely watching inflation expectations and labour costs” to make sure they don’t take off and cause a spiral of price growth.

The comments in the last scheduled rate announcement of the year left the key rate at its rock-bottom level of 0.25 per cent, unchanged from where it was in January at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement also said that the bank doesn’t expect to raise the trendsetting rate until some time between April and September next year, which is unchanged from its previous guidance.

“Overall, the (Bank of Canada) did indeed resist spitting in anyone’s holiday ‘nog,” Derek Holt, head of capital markets economics at Scotiabank, wrote in a note. “They stayed on track with guidance to begin entertaining rate hikes as soon as next April.”

When the bank moves, it is likely to move fast and furious, said BMO chief economist Douglas Porter. The bank has a history of quickly raising rates from emergency levels, he said, suggesting four rate hikes by the end of 2022.

“When the Bank of Canada believes that interest rates need to go up, they don’t tend to wait around, they tend to move relatively quickly,” Porter said.

The bank said the economy appears to have “considerable momentum” heading to the end of the year after growing at an annualized rate of 5.4 per cent in the third quarter of the year, a hair below what the Bank of Canada forecasted in October.

The Bank of Canada’s statement noted that the quarterly growth brought total economic activity to within about 1.5 per cent of where it was in the last quarter of 2019, before COVID-19 washed upon Canada’s shores.

Similarly, the labour market had a stronger-than-expected showing in November, pushing the share of core-age workers with a job to an all-time high and leaving the unemployment rate 0.3 percentage points above its pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

Still, the bank notes headwinds from devastating floods in British Columbia and uncertainties from the Omicron variant that could throw another wrench into snarled supply chains, and scare off consumers from spending on services.

TD senior economist Sri Thanabalasingam said the bank may move sooner on rates if Omicron proves to be less of a health concern than initially feared, noting the economy can handle it “with inflation running hot, and the labour market on solid footing.”

A rise in rates would impact interest charged for variable rate mortgages, which could tighten the finances of households that over the course of 2021 have added $121.5 billion in mortgage debt, including $38 billion between July and September.

“It’s going to be, I think, particularly problematic for Canadians who have gone into fairly substantial mortgages, particularly when interest rates have been low for such a long period of time,” said Tashia Batstone, president of FP Canada, a financial-planning association.

“What that means is you have to work harder to stick to your budget, you have to be watching the debt that you’re taking on, and in particular watch that you may not be able to have the flexibility around mortgage loans.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2021.

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Pfizer says COVID-19 booster offers protection against Omicron – CTV News

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Pfizer said Wednesday that a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine may protect against the new Omicron variant even though the initial two doses appear significantly less effective.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said lab tests showed a booster dose increased by 25-fold the level of so-called neutralizing antibodies against omicron.

Pfizer announced the preliminary laboratory data in a press release and it hasn’t yet undergone scientific review. The companies already are working to create an omicron-specific vaccine in case it’s needed.

Scientists have speculated that the high jump in antibodies that comes with a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines might be enough to counter any decrease in effectiveness.

Antibody levels predict how well a vaccine may prevent infection with the coronavirus but they are just one layer of the immune system’s defences. Pfizer said two doses of the vaccine may still induce protection against severe disease.

“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is maximized with a third dose of our vaccine,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content

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Ontario COVID-19 science advisor recommends tighter restrictions in Thunder Bay – Tbnewswatch.com

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THUNDER BAY — A leading Ontario epidemiologist believes the Thunder Bay District Health Unit should take measures immediately to mitigate the further spread of COVID-19.

“The trajectory is in the wrong direction. At this rate, they will start to be challenged” with managing the situation, says Dr. Peter Juni.

Juni is the scientific director of the province’s COVID-19 science advisory table.

The COVID-19 caseload has been rising steadily in the Thunder Bay area since mid-November, including cases at numerous schools.

The 54 new cases reported on Monday was the largest number of new cases reported since March 17, 2021.

It brought the active case count to 137, including some cases of the new Omicron variant.

The risk for TBDHU, Juni said, is that “You can’t just get contact tracing, testing and management done as efficiently as before….Omicron pops up now, and you potentially have a problem.”

He said although the challenges presented by the new variant aren’t fully known yet, it needs to be taken very seriously.

It’s why, Juni said, he recommends swift action to slow the spread of the Delta variant while simultaneously preventing Omicron from becoming dominant.

“If I were in the shoes of the local public health unit, and the medical officer of health, I would really follow the same sort of decision-making that Windsor-Essex has just had,” he told TBNewswatch on Monday.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit announced Sunday that it is introducing new measures that go beyond current provincial regulations.

In its service area, where the rate of COVID-19 infections is starting to put a strain on local hospitals, the following restrictions will take effect on Dec. 10:

  • social gatherings limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors
  • added measures for wedding receptions and for social events tied to funerals and religious services
  • limiting indoor capacity for bars and restaurants to 50 % of their usual occupancy limit
  • strict adherence to face-covering requirements in all public settings

“The virus loves indoor spaces. It hasn’t changed for Delta and it won’t change for Omicron either,” Dr. Juni said.

He said it’s also essential that people “don’t cut corners with masking.”

At sports venues specifically, he said, he would seriously consider disallowing the consumption of food and drink in order to keep masks in place.

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