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Whale Watch: Will Warren Top Tepper? And Other Storylines

Tuesday, 15 Feb 2011 | 1:03 PM ET
Warren Buffett
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Warren Buffett

The most recent whale-watch filings at the SEC become more interesting when you contemplate not merely who is betting on what but who is betting against whom.

Looked at one way, the quarterly 13f documents at the Securities and Exchange Commission tell you who dumped financials, who bet on retail, who still is using metals to hedge against the ever-nearing threat of inflation.

Many of the filings show little surprise. Big money managers like the tried-and-true, and they’re often pretty transparent in telegraphing their moves.

We knew, for instance, that Bill Ackman has taken a big stake in JCPenney ; we knew George Soros was still going to stay in gold no matter his bubble prognostications.

But through another prism we get some heavyweight battles, many involving the biggest whale of them all: Warren Buffett vs. David Tepper; Steve Cohen vs. Warren Buffett; Warren Buffett vs. John Paulson.

Tepper’s choices are among the more interesting.

Whereas Buffet has shed his stake in Bank of America , Tepper loves financials and loaded up on them heavily during the last filing period.

Remember, the Appaloosa Management chief is credited with starting the “Tepper Rally” last fall when he came on CNBC and told investors to buy everything, so long as the Federal Reserve was maintaining its accommodative and interventionist stand in the markets.

Banks have been slumping over the past month, but financials overall have been doing well within the S&P 500.

Bank of America, which Buffett dumped and in so doing took a major loss, has outperformed the group but is still negative for the last month and a general underperformer over the past year. Paulson has held his position in the bank, apparently hoping that the Dodd-Frank financial reform won’t constrain bank profits.

CNBC.com-parent Comcast also sparked differing opinions among the big guys.

Buffett shed his stake, but Cohen loaded up. The stock has been a stellar performer for the past year.

Elsewhere, Cohen and David Einhorn, a much-watched manager since he foretold the demise of Lehman Brothers, have taken stakes in SprintNextel, a move that looks shrewd considering the telecom’s standout earnings performance in the past quarter.

So take the side of whomever you think is the big mammal in the tank.

But if the 13f filings tell us one thing about these investors who have stead the test of time, don’t despair if you bet on the wrong whale for now.

After all, there’s always next quarter.

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