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Customers gather outside an Apple store before the release of iPhone 5 in Munich early September 21, 2012.

MICHAEL DALDER/REUTERS

What are we looking for?

Since hedge funds are frequent and dominant traders in the U.S. equity market, it's not a bad idea to know what some of the biggest and most influential hedge funds are doing with their stock holdings. With that in mind, we present a list of the most-held stocks among the 50 biggest hedge funds in the U.S. market.

FactSet's top-50 hedge holdings

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FactSet Research Systems Inc., a U.S. financial-market research firm., this week released its quarterly report on the top 50 biggest U.S. hedge funds – as well as the top stock holdings among those 50 funds. It reported that the funds increased their combined exposure to equities by 3 per cent in the third quarter, although 23 of the 50 funds actually decreased their equity positions.

On the sector level, these funds added the most exposure in financial stocks in the quarter, and also added to an already-overweight position in consumer discretionary stocks. At the end of the quarter, the top-50 funds had a combined 19-per-cent portfolio weighting in consumer discretionary, well above the sector's 11-per-cent weighting in the S&P 500. They also increased their holdings in consumer discretionary stocks, their most underweight sector. The biggest drop in exposure came in the health care sector.

What we found

The accompanying table features the 20 biggest U.S. stock holdings among the top-50 largest hedge funds. They are ranked according to the total value of the stock held, collectively, by the funds.

Apple Inc. remains the most popular stock among the big hedge funds; indeed, FactSet said, it is the single biggest holding for 12 of the 50 funds. Apple, however, also suffered the biggest sell-off by dollar value, with the big funds shedding nearly $1.2-billion (U.S.) of the stock over the three months.

"The funds' shifting sentiment toward Apple seems to be prescient in this case – the stock closed the quarter just 5 per cent off its current 52-week high, and has since dropped 20.9 per cent," wrote FactSet analyst Michael Amenta.

The funds loaded up on American International Group Inc. in the quarter, increasing their combined position by more than $3-billion, or 211 per cent. Two of the biggest buyers – Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC and Third Point Management Co. LLC – are now both among AIG's top-10 shareholders, and both have committed more than 10 per cent of their equity portfolios to the insurance giant, which received a massive government bailout during the financial crisis.

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About the Author
Economics Reporter

David Parkinson has been covering business and financial markets since 1990, and has been with The Globe and Mail since 2000. A Calgary native, he received a Southam Fellowship from the University of Toronto in 1999-2000, studying international political economics. More

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