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Donald Trump says Warren Buffett makes a mistake selling airline stocks

Jonathan Stempel
FILE PHOTO: Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett walks through the exhibit hall as shareholders gather to hear from the billionaire investor at Berkshire Hathaway Inc's annual shareholder meeting in Omaha

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said Warren Buffett, often regarded as the world's greatest investor, made a mistake by recently exiting a multi-billion dollar investment in the airline industry.

Trump made his assessment at the White House, shortly after the U.S. Labor Department reported an unexpected surge in May jobs, and five weeks after Buffett said his Berkshire Hathaway Inc <BRKa.N> sold its airline stakes.

"Warren Buffett sold airlines a little while ago," Trump said. "He's been right his whole life, but sometimes even somebody like Warren Buffett -- I have a lot of respect for him -- they make mistakes. They should have kept the airline stocks because the airline stocks went through the roof today."

Buffett did not immediately respond to a request for comment through his assistant.

At Berkshire's May 2 annual meeting, Buffett said his Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate had in April sold its roughly $6 billion of stock in American Airlines Group Inc <AAL.O>, Delta Air Lines Inc <DAL.N>, Southwest Airlines Co <LUV.N> and United AIrlines Holdings Inc <UAL.O>.

Buffett said the coronavirus pandemic had changed the industry "in a very major way," through no fault of the carriers, leaving the future of flying "much less clear."

Many airline stocks have outpaced the broader market this week, as carriers took steps to restore some flights they had canceled because of the pandemic.

American, Delta, Southwest and United rose after the Labor Department said U.S. nonfarm payrolls grew by 2.51 million in May, and the jobless rate fell to 13.3% from April's 14.7%.

Economists on average expected a loss of 8 million jobs, and a 19.8% unemployment rate.

Berkshire's stock is lagging the Standard & Poor's 500 <.SPX> for a second straight year.

Investors have faulted Buffett for not spending more of Berkshire's cash, which ended March at $137.3 billion.


(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)