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Tech’s Biggest Hater Finally Shows Us Some Love

1 | By Michael A. Robinson

Common wisdom suggests America’s most famous investor has long avoided high-tech companies.

Instead, Warren Buffett has stuck to what he knows – everything from insurance and railroads to soda and razors.

“I know about as much about semiconductors or integrated circuits as I do of the mating habits of the [beetle],” Buffett once wrote. “We will not go into businesses where technology which is way over my head is crucial to the investment decision.”

He felt technology lacked margin of safety, and many “Buffett-heads” followed his lead – and they all missed out on tech stocks’ leaps in value over the last eight years or so.

BuffettBut that’s not the only reason that common wisdom isn’t looking so wise anymore…

As we’ve been saying here for a while now, every business has become a tech business. It’s all because of the Convergence Economy, where we see multiple technologies merging into new, innovation-unlocking and profit-making creations. That leads to everything from cloud computing and the Internet of Everything to smart homes and connected cars – to technology affecting every part of our daily lives.

But you don’t have to take my word for it…

Fact is, Buffett has been getting to know tech – and he’s been quietly moving into technology stocks over the last six years. He just doubled his holdings in Silicon Valley legend Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL).

This may sound like merely trivia – after all, we’ve never let Buffett’s aversion to tech stop us.

But I believe the Oracle of Omaha’s move into tech is far more important that it might sound at first.

So today we’ll investigate why Buffett’s newfound interest in smartphones and semiconductors are crucial to our understanding of the tech sector.

Then, we’ll dig up a cost-effective way to play this unstoppable trend that will make you plenty of money in the years to come.

Let’s get started…

Icing on the Cake

On Friday, we took a look at how the bull market’s eighth anniversary helps prove are thesis that the road to wealth is paved by tech.

Since the bull market began on March 10, 2009, the S&P 500 has gained some 215%. Yes, that’s an amazing return.

But compare that with the profits from the tech-centric Nasdaq Composite over the same period. The Nasdaq returned 310% – 44% higher than the broad market.

That just goes to show that if you want to use the markets to finance your long-term dreams and goals – whether that’s a secure retirement, paying down your credit card, or buying a sailboat – then you have to invest in tech.

And Warren Buffett’s big move into high tech in general and Apple in particular is some very flavorful icing on our cake thesis.

After all, nothing in the investing world speaks louder than actually putting your money on the line. And Buffett is putting plenty of it down on Apple and other tech leaders…

At the end of last year, his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A, B) investment vehicle’s Apple holdings totaled roughly 57 million shares. Early in 2017, he bought on the dip and added another 76 million or so shares.

That brings the total value of his Apple holdings to roughly $18.6 billion, making Apple one of Berkshire Hathaway’s largest holdings.

Buffett recently sang Apple’s praises to CNBC, saying he was impressed with the iconic iPhone.

“The continuity of the product is huge and the degree to which their (customer) lives center around it is huge,” he said. “And that’s a really nice franchise to have in a consumer product.”

Plus, it turns out that the common wisdom on Buffett and tech hasn’t been true for several years.

Despite tech bears talking about Buffett’s “aversion” until seemingly a few weeks ago – and using it to justify their own fear of technology stocks – the Oracle has quietly been increasing his investments in the sector for years…

Into the Wild Big Blue Yonder

Admittedly, Buffett was a bit late to the tech sector’s huge rally over the last eight years.

But he finally jumped on board in 2011 with a foray into International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM).

Since then, he has continued to ramp up his IBM investments. As of last month, he owned nearly 8.6% of Big Blue.

These two investments alone put Buffett at the lead of several unstoppable tech trends. With Apple, he has the world’s most respected smartphone, digital music distribution, online video, and smart devices via the Apple Watch.

With IBM, he has stakes in cloud computing, smart data analytics, cognitive computing, the Internet of Everything, and healthcare.

Buffett also has his hand in e-commerce, the mobile web, and cybersecurity through his holdings in Verisign Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSN). And Berkshire Hathaway’s investments in Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) put him in electronic banking and digital payments.

In other words, despite beliefs to the contrary, Berkshire Hathaway and Buffett own a pretty wide swath of high tech.

However, while Buffett has been bulking up on the sector, Berkshire still is mostly invested in old-guard firms like the Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) and Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL).

That means neither series of Berkshire stock is a pure play on high tech and its market-crushing returns.

This, however, is…

The Better Way

Instead of chasing Buffett and Berkshire, you’d do much better to focus on the iShares North American Tech ETF (NYSE: IGM). It’s a top-rated exchange-traded fund (ETF) that gets four out of five stars from investment research firm Morningstar.

IGM opened today at $137.25 with a 0.48% expense ratio. For that, you get a lot of tech exposure and great performance.

The fund holds more than 250 stocks that cover every aspect of technology, from chips and cloud computing to e-commerce and memory systems to 3D printing and optical networking.

Big leaders like Apple, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), and Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) anchor this fund, covering 30% of its portfolio. But it also holds dozens of smaller, fast-growing firms.

Many members of the IGM portfolio have done a great job reaching into global markets. But at heart, they all count on North America as their major source of strength.

And that’s a great place to be as President Donald Trump seeks to better the economy, slash corporate taxes, and cut back on U.S. job losses to overseas firms.

This is a strong performer.

IGM rose 16.6% in 2016, better than eight times that of the broader economy.Over the past five years, it has clocked 17.4% yearly gains.

It’s off to a great this year as well. Year to date, it’s gained 10.3%. By contrast, the S&P has returned 5.6%.

This isn’t just one of my favorite ETFs. It’s a great tech foundational play you can count on to put you on the road to wealth.

And it levels the playing field between you and the greatest investor of all time.

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