Hedge Funds Bought Apple, P&G in Q3; Dumped Allergan, Charter

Building on a turn toward more equity investments in the second quarter of this year, the top 50 hedge funds boosted their equity positions by 2.9% in the third quarter. The second-quarter increase amounted to just 0.3%, but that was far better than the 7% decrease in equity exposure in the first quarter of this year.

Hedge funds added $8.94 billion to their exposure to Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG) and nearly $2.1 billion in exposure to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). That’s quite a reversal for Apple. The top 50 funds cut their total position in Apple stock by 40% in the second quarter, and Apple’s was the most-sold stock in the first quarter as well.

The health care sector accounted for the largest aggregate sale in the third quarter, with hedge funds dropping $1.8 billion in Allegan PLC (NYSE: AGN) shares. In the second quarter, Allergan was the third most-sold stock by the top 50 funds. Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (NYSE: TEVA) and animal health firm Zoetis Inc. (NYSE: ZTS) were also sold-off strongly in the quarterly.

The data were reported Thursday by FactSet.

Here’s the good news/bad news for investors in these 50 funds:

On a total return basis, the aggregate hedge fund portfolio of the top 50 holdings outperformed the S&P 500 Total Return Index in Q3, but has underperformed on a year-to-date basis through November 15th. The top 50 holdings of the top 50 hedge funds increased 10.5% during the third quarter, while the S&P 500 Total Return index gained 3.9%. On a year-to-date basis, the top 50 holdings have gained 4%, which trails the 8.7% YTD return of the S&P 500.

Among the five funds as measured by equity assets, Millennium Management was a top buyer of P&G and a top seller of Charter Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: CHTR). P&G is the fund’s top holding.

Renaissance Technologies is the second-largest hedge fund and its top holding is Novo Nordisk A/S (NYSE: NVO). Its top buy in the third quarter was Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL), and its top sale was CVS Health Corp. (NYSE: CVS).

The third-largest fund, D.E. Shaw, bought more Apple stock than any other during the quarter and sold more equity in Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB). Shaw’s top holding is Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN).

Citadel Advisors’ top holding is the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSEMKT: SPY), which was also the fund’s top buy in the third quarter. Fidelity National Information Services Inc. (NYSE: FIS) was Citadel’s most-sold stock.

Adage Capital Management, holder of the fifth-largest stash of equity assets, bought CF Industries Holdings Inc. (NYSE: CF) and sold American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL). The fund’s top holding is Apple.

For additional charts and details see the FactSet website.