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Hedge funds loaded up on tech stocks at their fourth-quarter bottom, just in time to cash in on the double-digit rebound.
Facebook was the most-owned stock by the largest hedge funds as the market staged its first-quarter comeback, followed by Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon and Alibaba, according to Citi Research. The bank reviewed the regulatory filings from the largest 50 hedge funds by value of securities that document their top 10 holdings as of end of December.
By the end of the fourth quarter, 15 of the 50 largest hedge funds owned Facebook shares as one of their top 10 holdings, more than double the number of funds from the third quarter, Citi data show. The smart money bought the huge dip in the social media giant when it lost more than 20 percent amidst fourth quarter's market turmoil. Facebook has rebounded in the new year with its shares rising almost 25 percent year to date.
Top hedge funds also ramped up their bets on Amazon as 13 out of 50 biggest hedge funds held significant positions in the e-commerce powerhouse last quarter, up from eight funds in the third quarter. Amazon has posted a nearly 9 percent gain in the new year after losing more than 25 percent in the fourth quarter.
Another favorite stock of hedge funds, Alibaba, has returned more than 24 percent this year after bleeding 17 percent last quarter.
Information technology stocks occupied about 19 percent of hedge funds' top holdings last quarter, followed by consumer discretionary's 14.4 percent, Citi's analysts said.
Buying the dip in tech helped hedge funds post a 3.5 percent return in January, the best monthly performance since September 2010, according to Hedge Fund Research.
While betting on tech, top hedge funds rotated out of more defensive sectors including utilities, real estate and consumer staples, Citi data show.