Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Hedge funds stay bullish despite growth stock rout

Share
Getty Images

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

VIDEO2:3302:33
Hedge fund net exposure way down

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

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