The Wall Street Journal: Berkshire Hathaway earnings rise despite stumbles in insurance, railroads

Berkshire Hathaway, the firm run by investor Warren Buffett, reported net income of $5.59 billion, up from $5.16 billion in the same period a year earlier. The earnings were announced as the firm’s annual shareholders meeting got under way in Omaha, Neb., on Saturday. See our live blog of the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting.

Insurance underwriting profits declined to $1.132 billion in the quarter, compared with $1.355 billion in the prior-year quarter, because of a rise in natural disasters.

Berkshire’s BRK.A, -0.05% BRK.B, -0.40%  massive railroad, utility and energy segment saw profits fall as well — to $1.225 billion, compared with $1.466 billion in the year prior.

First-quarter earnings at Berkshire’s BNSF Railway were down “significantly,” Buffett said at the annual meeting, adding that it is “almost certainly going to be down” for the remainder of the year. Lower shipments of coal and material used in shale-gas extraction had cut into the railroad’s results last year, and it has been expected to report lower earnings and revenue in 2016.

As a result, operating profit at Berkshire dropped in the quarter. The rise in net income was due to investment and derivative gains and losses, something that Buffett says are best to ignore.

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