February 14, 2020
Today was the deadline for all big money managers to give a public snapshot of their portfolios to the SEC (as they stood at the end of the fourth quarter). So let’s review why, if at all, the news you read about today regarding the moves of big investors, matters.
Remember, all investors that are managing more than $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.
First, it’s important to understand that some of the moves deduced from 13F filings can be as old as 135 days. Filings must be made 45 days after the previous quarter ends.
Now, there are literally thousands of investment managers that are required to report on a 13F. That means there are thousands of filings. And the difference in manager talent, strategies, portfolio sizes, motivations and investment mandates runs the gamut.
Although the media loves to run splashy headlines about who bought what and who sold what, to make you feel overconfident about what you own, scared about what you sold, anxious, envious or all a combination of it all, the truth is, most of the meaningful portfolio activity is already well known. Many times, if we’re talking about very large positions, they’ve already been reported in another filing with the SEC, called the 13D.
With this all in mind, there are nuggets to be found in 13Fs. Let’s revisit how to find them, and the take aways from the recent filings.
I only look at a tiny percentage of filings—just the investors that have long and proven track records, distinct approaches and who have concentrated portfolios. That narrows the universe dramatically.
Here’s what to look for:
1. 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.
2. For specialist investors (such as a technology focused hedge fund) I 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 or takes a macro bet.
3. 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.
4. 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.”
5. Trimming of positions is generally not predictive unless a hedge fund or billionaire cuts by a substantial amount, 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.
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