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Hedge funds stay bullish despite growth stock rout

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There are surprisingly few signs that equity hedge funds have made big changes to their portfolios following a brutal recent move away from stocks with high potential for growth, especially technology companies.

Hedge funds have even downsized their short positions, or bets on stocks to decline. Sectors where short positions decreased over the week of April 7 included information technology (down 8.86 percent); telecommunications (-4.95 percent); financials (-5.70 percent); and consumer discretionary (-10.29 percent), according to a recent UBS report.

Overall, the average equity focused fund increased its market exposure from 38 percent to 40 percent net long, according to a separate report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "Net long" means that a fund's bets on the appreciation of the market outweigh the value of their shorts.

"Despite recent challenges in the markets, funds are maintaining exposure and we haven't seen signs of a widespread liquidation," said Jon Kinderlerer, who analyzes Credit Suisse's hedge fund client portfolios as head of risk and portfolio advisory for the bank's prime brokerage division.

Whatever portfolio tweaks were made, it hasn't worked yet: The average stock-focused fund fell 1.23 percent in the first week of April, according to the Bank of America report.

Read MoreHedge funds get clobbered by fall in tech stocks

One boost in short positions came by funds adding to bets against stock index funds, which are typically used as market hedges.

The largest increase seen by UBS was in shorts of the PowerShares QQQ Trust, an exchange-traded fund that tracks the technology-heavy Nasdaq100 index. That move reflected a reduction in risk to both tech and biotech, both recent losers. Funds also increased their short positions in the Financial Select Sector SPDR, an ETF that tracks financial companies, and the First Trust Dow Jones Internet fund.

The most-shorted individual stocks as of April 11, according to UBS, included some tech stocks (IBM, LinkedIn and Salesforce.com) but there was no obvious sector consensus.

Most shorted stocks

Short rank
Stock
1 TSLA TESLA MTRS INC COM
2 IBM INTL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP
3 INTC INTEL CORP
4 CAT CATERPILLAR INC
5 DDD 3D SYSTEMS CORP
6 LL LUMBER LIQUIDATORS HOLDINGS
7 DE DEERE AND CO
8 CHK CHESAPEAKE ENERGY CORP
9 LNKD LINKEDIN CORPORATION
10 T AT&T INC
11 Z ZILLOW INC CL A
12 CRM SALESFORCE.COM INC
13 FAST FASTENAL CO
14 O REALTY INCOME CORP MD
15 RIG TRANSOCEAN N ORD
Source: UBS (as of 4/11/14)

Read MoreHedge funds suffer worst start to year since 2008

The Absolute Return Composite Index, which tracks hedge funds across strategies, is up 1.97 percent through March. The average firm gained just 0.17 percent last month, with most technology, international equity and multi-strategy funds losing money.

Large equity fund losers in the first quarter included Coatue Management (down 7.4 percent percent), Lone Pine Capital (-4 percent), Blue Ridge Capital (-5 percent), Jericho Capital Partners (-5.3 percent) and JAT Capital (-5.6 percent).

Read MoreMarch tech losses burn hedge funds

Symbol
Price
 
Change
%Change
UBSN
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BAC
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CSGN
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QQQ
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NASD 100
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SPDR FIN SEL
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FDN
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IBM
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LINKEDIN
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CRM
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QQQ
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NASDAQ
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