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No. of Recommendations: 1

We had some important news last week.

In a filing with the SEC, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway announced that the billionaire investor closed out his holdings in U.S. Bancorp, selling all 14,657,001 shares, valued at $442.5 million on Sept. 30, 1999, on or before December 31, 1999.

Of course, the average share price for USB was markedly higher during much of the fourth quarter of 1999.

We don't know Buffett's cost and sale prices, or if Buffett has reestablished his position during calendar year 2000.

The market seems to have shrugged off this news.

Here's why I do too:

1. At December's 37, for example, I too would be much less positive toward USB. At today's 23 1/4, USB is much cheaper than during much of 1999's fourth quarter.

2. USB remains highly profitable with an ROE of 20%+ and a return on assets of 1.9%. Profits should grow in the 10-15% range during the coming year.

3. With interest rates falling (the long bond is off 1% from its 2000 highest yield) bank share prices should begin to recover, thus touching off a merger wave that will be memorable.

4. At 9 times earnings, USB is too GOOD and too CHEAP to ignore. I presume other bankers know this as well.

Thus, while I would LOVE to have Buffett on board at this or higher prices, a stunning recovery in USB's stock price doen't require his sponsorship.

Remember, you are neither correct nor incorrect just because others agree or disagree with you.

You are right on this stock if you've got the economics right.

Look for 30 by Christmas, and it could be this Christmas....

Best wishes,
Mark Hirschey
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