More hedge funds sold down or exited positions in eight of the 10 most commonly held stocks than the number of those that entered or added to the stakes, according to fourth quarter public stock ownership data compiled by industry analyst Novus.
Apple is a case in point in the latest trend.
The technology giant was the most popular stock based on the number of hedge fund firms that own it, a good bet given that Apple gained nearly 38 percent in 2014.
But 112 hedge funds cut holdings in Apple stock over the fourth quarter, compared with 76 buyers, 26 holds and 19 complete exits, according to Novus. Well-known money managers to cut their exposure or sell out included Greenlight Capital, Coatue Management and Appaloosa Management.
Hedge funds generally added to bets over the last quarter on companies in several major sectors: Consumer discretionary (Walt Disney and McDonald's were the top holdings), health care (Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer) and information technology (Apple, Microsoft) sectors, according to Novus. At the same time, they decreased their bets on stocks in energy (Exxon Mobil, Chevron), materials (LyondellBasell, Air Products and Chemicals) and telecom (Verizon, AT&T).
Read MoreHere's what top hedge funds are buying and selling