Hedge funds cut Apple, Google, other VIP stocks

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.

Hedge funds showed their hand with new filings in February, with familiar names like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Johnson & Johnson and Citigroup showing up in the most portfolios as of Dec. 31.

Most popular hedge fund stocks

Stock
No. of HF owners
New
Buys
Sells
Holds
Exits
Net
APPLE 235 21 76 112 26 19 -34
MICROSOFT 197 16 58 97 26 12 -35
GOOGLE 174 20 48 76 30 35 -43
JOHNSON & JOHNSON 169 7 42 90 30 10 -51
CITIGROUP 158 20 60 54 24 11 15
JPMORGAN CHASE 156 11 47 75 23 14 -31
EXXON MOBIL 152 9 50 67 26 10 -18
FACEBOOK 152 18 61 53 20 16 10
GOOGLE 152 15 59 50 28 25 -1
PFIZER 152 15 52 61 24 19 -13
Public data as of Dec. 31, 2014 compiled by 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.

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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).

Top hedge fund stock sectors

Sector
Long % of assets
Short % of assets
Net % of assets
CONSUMER DISCRETIONARY 19.48 -7.29 12.19
FINANCIALS 16.04 -4.69 11.35
HEALTH CARE 16.27 -5.89 10.38
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY 18.07 -7.81 10.27
INDUSTRIALS 12.3 -4.01 8.29
ENERGY 11.21 -3.44 7.77
MATERIALS 5.67 -1.71 3.96
CONSUMER STAPLES 5.73 -2.13 3.6
UTILITIES 2.03 -1.1 0.93
TELECOM SERVICES 1.65 -0.95 0.7
Public data as of Dec. 31, 2014 compiled by Novus

Read MoreHere's what top hedge funds are buying and selling