Stocks have roared back in the past several days. It’s been led by commodity stocks, the area that has been beaten up and left for dead. Not surprisingly, the bounce in that area has been multiples of the broader stock market bounce (which is 7% in less than a week).
As we’ve discussed in recent weeks, in the world we live in, global economic stability continues to rely on central bank influence. And, indeed, after one of the worst starts for stocks in a New Year ever, it was central bank verbal posturing to open the week that has turned the tide for global markets. On Sunday, the head of the BOJ spoke, warning that they were watching markets closely and stood ready to act, and then on Monday, the head of the European Central Bank said, effectively, the same. The result: the BOJ comments sparked a 10% rally in Japanese stocks in a matter of hours. With that lead, the S&P 500 has now rallied 7% in three days, crude oil has bounced 20%, and global interest rates are bouncing back (which, last week, were pricing in recession).
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Like it or not, in a world where the economy remains structurally fragile after the global financial and economic crisis, the central banks remain in the driver’s seat and they know that promoting stability is the key to recovery and ultimately returning to sustainable economic growth. As we approach the March ECB and BOJ meetings, with weak oil prices persisting, we continue to think the central banks may outright buy oil and commodities to remove the risk of oil industry bankruptcies and the domino effect that it would spark. As an additional benefit, it would likely turn out to be a very profitable investment.
Today we want to talk about the quarterly SEC filings that came in this week. All big investors that are managing over $100 million are required to publicly disclose their holdings every quarter. They have 45 days from the end of the quarter to file that disclosure with the SEC. It’s called a form 13F. While these filings have become very popular fodder for the media, what we care more about is 13D filings. Those are disclosures these big investors have to make within 10 days of taking a controlling stake in a company. When you own 5% or more of a company’s stock, it’s considered a controlling stake. In a publicly traded company, with that sized position, you typically become the largest shareholder and, as we know, with that comes influence. Another key attribute of this 13D filing, for us, is that these investors also have to file amendments to the 13D within 10 days of making any change to their position.
By comparison, the 13F filings only offer value to the extent that there is some skilled analysis applied. Thousands of managers file 13Fs every quarter. And the difference in manager talent, strategies and portfolio sizes run the gamut.
With that caveat, there are nuggets to be found in 13Fs. Let’s talk about how to find them, and the take aways from the recent filings.
First, it’s important to understand that some of the positions in 13F filings can be as old as 135 days. Filings must be made 45 days after the previous quarter ends, which is 90 days. We only look at a tiny percentage of filings—just the investors that we know have long and proven track records, distinct approaches, and who have concentrated portfolios.
Through our research over 15 years, here’s what we’ve found to be most predictive:
Clustering in stocks and sectors by good hedge funds is bullish. Situations where good funds are doubling down on stocks is bullish. This all can provide good insight into the mindset of the biggest and best investors in the world, and can be a predictor of trends that have yet to materialize in the market’s eye.
For specialist investors (such as a technology focused hedge fund) we take note when they buy a new technology stock or double down on a technology stock. This is much more predictive than when a generalist investor, as an example, buys a technology stock.
The bigger the position relative to the size of their portfolio, the better. Concentrated positions show conviction. Conviction tends to result in a higher probability of success. Again, in most cases, we will see these first in the 13D filings.
New positions that are of large, but under 5%, are worthy of putting on the watch list. These positions can be an indicator that the investor is building a position that will soon be a “controlling stake.”
Trimming of positions is generally not predictive unless a hedge fund or billionaire cuts a position by 75% or more, or cuts below 5% (which we will see first in 13D filings). Funds also tend to trim losers into the fourth quarter for tax loss benefits, and then they buy them back early the following year.
With that in mind, we want to talk about a few things we did glean from these recent filings.
First, the old adage “buy when there is blood in the streets” was evident last quarter, as many of the top billionaire investors loaded up on stocks in the fourth quarter. That was BEFORE the further declines this year.
Top billionaire investors Paul Singer, David Tepper and Chase Coleman of Tiger Global all increased their equity exposure (buying more stocks) over the last quarter. And billionaire investors still love health care stocks. John Paulson, Bill Ackman, Dan Loeb and Larry Robbins loaded up, with Paulson putting 56% of his portfolio in health care.
Billionaires are starting to bottom fish in energy. Seth Klarman, David Tepper, Carl Icahn and Warren Buffett all either added to, or initiated new stakes in energy stocks. Tepper now has 12% of his entire equity portfolio in energy stocks! This obviously coincides well with the theme that energy and commodity stocks are starting to bottom.
Also notable, in recent weeks, the 13D filings have been coming in fast and furious as investors are taking advantage of the decline this year.
Analyzing these filings is part of our process in our Billionaire’s Portfolio. With that in mind, this week we followed one of the best billion dollar (plus) activist hedge funds into a stock where they own 12.5%, have three board seats, and are in the process of replacing the CEO. These are are three key ingredients in the success of activist campaigns: 1) a big concentrated position (12.5% stake), 2) control (board seats), and 3) change (a new CEO). This activist fund has won on 82% of its campaigns since 2002 and has a price target on this stock that’s more than 150% higher than the current share price. To join us you can subscribe to our Billionaire’s Portfolio (here).