Are hedge funds really warming up to equities again or are they just playing the only game in town? After cutting their exposure to equities by nearly 7% in the first quarter of this year, the top 50 hedge funds added some 0.3% to their equities exposure in the second quarter. Consumer discretionary and consumer staples were the big winners in the quarter, while financials and health care stocks led the losing sectors.
Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) accounted for $2.0 billion and $1.8 billion, respectively, of hedge funds’ sales in the second quarter. Viking Global Investors cut its stake in Netflix by 22%, and Tiger Global sold its entire 4.2% stake (valued at $1.6 billion) in the streaming video company.
The top 50 hedge funds cut their total position in Apple by 40% during the second quarter. Apple was the most sold stock in the first quarter of the year, primarily due to Carl Icahn’s sale of $4.8 billion of Apple stock. In the second quarter, sellers included Tiger Global, Greenlight Capital and Adage Capital.
Inflows to the consumer discretionary sector totaled $4.2 billion in the second quarter with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: HOT) receiving $2.7 billion of the total. A $2.6 billion stock purchase by Omni Capital accounted for much of the move into Starwood, which is being acquired by Marriott for $13.5 billion.
The data were reported Thursday by FactSet.
Second-quarter performance for holdings of the top 50 funds is a negative 1.2%, compared to a gain of 2.5% for the S&P 500 stocks. For the year to date, the indexed total return for the S&P 500 is 8.1%, compared with 5.1% for the top 50 hedge fund holdings.
The most widely held stocks among the top 50 funds are Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), which appear in the portfolios of 25 of the funds.
Consumer staples’ stocks like Kroger Inc. (NYSE: KR) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) added $2.8 billion in hedge fund investments during the quarter, and CVS Health Corp. (NYSE: CVS) added $1 billion in new investment.
The top 50 hedge funds purchased a total of $2.2 billion in equities in the second quarter, a massive change from the overall sale of $55 billion in U.S. equities in the first quarter. Also, according to the new report from FactSet, the top 50 hedge funds bought $1.7 billion worth of stock in small cap firms, which was significantly more than the $567 million purchased in large cap firms and the $141 million purchased in mega cap firms. More than half the first quarter’s sell-off came in equities from mega-cap (greater than $50 billion) companies and another $20 billion in first-quarter sales were attributed to large cap stocks ($10 billion to $50 billion).