In an interview earlier in the day on CNBC, Larry Fink, chief of the huge fund manager BlackRock, seemed to agree. "This is all more of the fast money moving out," he said, calling the downturn "a meltdown with a lot of hedge funds and fast money."
Read MoreGreat time to get back into market: BlackRock's Fink
Concerns ranged from signs of weakness in Europe, where German consumer prices remained stagnant, and fears about Greece and other shakier continental economies rose, to further evidence of slowing growth in China. At the same time, evidence emerged that a health worker newly infected with the Ebola virus had taken a commercial flight after being in contact with a stricken patient. As Wednesday progressed, the sag in oil prices both domestically and overseas continued.
Read MoreWhat's causing decline in crude oil: Dan Dicker
As of late Tuesday, none of the major hedge funds that owned the battered U.S. energy stocks indicated having sold them. Spokesmen for AQR and D.E. Shaw, whose investment decisions are largely governed by quantitative models, declined to comment, and people familiar with the strategies of Citadel, Elliott and Fir Tree, another fund manager with positions in both Hess and Anadarko, signaled that if anything, they were likely to be buying. (In fact, in Wednesday's selloff, the energy sector was the second-best performer on the S&P 500, though it is off nearly 14 percent in October and is the worst of the index's 10 sectors in 2014.)
"We don't comment on our P&L," said a spokesman for Fir Tree, using a shorthand for performance, or profit-and-loss, figures, "but Fir Tree has been active across the board buying."
Read MoreRide out the pain in stock selloff: Strategist
A person familiar with the strategy at Citadel said that despite its holdings in at least five hard-hit energy stocks, its energy portfolio was up overall, thanks partly to hedges on the short side.
Someone familiar with the strategy at Elliott said that the fund was amply hedged on its exposure to Hess—a long-term investment the hedge-fund firm has used to advocate for change—and that the market downturn of late was a good opportunity to "selectively add" to some of Elliott's energy holdings, which also include Anadarko.
Read MoreOil resumes slump, dipping as low as $80.01