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Fund managers really love the big-name tech stocks, but hate the rest of the sector apparently

  • Fund managers are shying away from smaller tech stocks, preferring big names like Facebook and Microsoft.
  • It's a strange disparity uncovered in a new quarterly report from eVestment.
  • Hedge fund manager Julian Robertson said he holds a similar portfolio make-up at the Delivering Alpha conference earlier this month.

Institutional investors are "underweight" technology stocks overall, yet they still really love big names in the sector like Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft, according to a new report out Tuesday from eVestment, which tracks money manager ownership trends.

The quarterly report showed that as a whole, large-cap growth equity funds significantly went underweight the broader tech sector at the end of the second quarter 2017, the latest period in which data is available. The researchers looked at nearly 7,000 equity strategies from investors like mutual funds and pension funds.

The five most heavily weighted stocks were Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. No surprises there. But the average weight of tech stocks was 28.4 percent, significantly lower than the nearly 31 percent weighting tech has in the Russell 1000 Growth Index as a whole.

The strange disparity serves as a reminder that these five giant stocks don't make up an entire sector, and much attention paid to those big names often takes away from what's happening elsewhere in the sector.

Growing value

Another interesting detail in the report. Looking at large cap growth funds and large cap value funds, they have one big similarity: Many of the same holdings. Companies like Apple and Microsoft are in the top-10 most weighted stocks for growth funds and they're in the top 10 for value funds.

"Growth" funds focus on stocks that have the potential for growth in the near future, often currently rising faster than the market as a whole. "Value funds" seek out stocks that are undervalued at their current prices, according to Peter Laurelli, global head of research for eVestment.

"Apple and Microsoft have both been large positions for large cap value and large cap growth managers over the past year," he said.

It's a pattern you see elsewhere in the investing world: Funds that call themselves one thing, but invest in another. Or stocks that can find appeal from investors with totally different approaches. Companies being both value and growth at the same time is unusual, but not impossible.

Last week at the Delivering Alpha conference, legendary investor Julian Robertson got into this point.

"There are a lot of disadvantages of being an old goat," he said. "One of the few advantages is the fact that we've seen all this a little bit before. And right now the Apples, the Facebooks, the Googles, those great growth companies are priced cheaper than they would have ever been in the '60s , '70s , and '80s."

But it's not just the fund managers. Some of it comes down to the indexes and benchmarks they're up against. Because even the biggest growth and value ETFs share stocks in common. Microsoft, Intel, Pepsi, 3M, UnitedHealthCare and Philip Morris International appear in the top 15 most weighted of major value ETFs and major growth ETFs, according to data from ETFB.com.