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Which Stocks Are 'High-Conviction' Picks by Fund Managers?

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Taking advantage of equities' poor second-quarter performance, highly rated investment funds are bulking up on select stocks in three recently out-of-favor sectors: financials, technology and oil-and-gas firms, according to Morningstar.

With the S&P 500 down 3% in the second quarter after the first quarter's 12% gain, the managers of these funds apparently viewed the dip as a buying opportunity.

"We saw a marked increase in purchases during the second quarter, with plenty of new-money buys among the top 10 purchases made by our top managers during the period," said Greggory Warren, a Morningstar senior stock analyst, in a Sept. 5 note that summarized the most recent portfolio activities of 26 of his firm's top-rated investment funds that it tracks for its Ultimate Stock Pickers series.

Morningstar identifies what it calls "conviction" buys by those funds, which are either significant additions to already existing holdings of funds, or represent big new positions for the funds made during a reporting period, which in this case is the second quarter, and for some funds, the beginning of the third.

Google (GOOG - Get Report), the world's largest Internet search company, was clearly the fund managers' favorite.

"Google stood out from the rest of the pack because it is rare to see five of our Ultimate Stock-Pickers making high-conviction purchases in the same stock during any single period," said Warren, "and the fact that two of the managers that were buying shares were actually building new positions in the name demonstrates an even higher degree of conviction in the name.

"New-money purchases provide us with the most insight into what our top managers think are the most attractive buying opportunities, as portfolio managers tend to only put money to work in new names when their purchase decision carries a very high degree of conviction," Warren said.

Google, now trading at $706 and with a market value of $227 billion, generates revenue when users click or view advertising related to their searches.

Its shares are up 22% in the past three months (through Sept. 7) but only 10% this year.

Google, now held by half of the 26 Ultimate Stock-Picker funds, is a favorite with the 42 analysts that follow it as well, as they give its shares 20 "buy" ratings, 14 "buy/holds," and eight "holds," according to a survey of analysts by S&P.
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