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Hedge Funds Heart Google

Stocks in this article: GOOG AAPL NFLX NWSA

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Hedge funds used to love Apple (AAPL). Now it's Google's (AAPL) turn to be top dog.

Research from Citi Investment Research shows that the search giant took the top holding spot in the top 50 actively managed US mutual funds ending the fourth quarter. Google also claimed top spot in hedge fund holdings. Sixteen of the largest fifty hedge funds held Google as their top holding as of the end of the fourth quarter, up from 15 in the third quarter.

Even though Google was a top holding in the fourth quarter, its shares didn't perform well. Shares fell 6.2% in the period from Sept. 28 to Dec. 31, but have fared much better recently. From Dec. 31 through March 4, Google was up 16.1%.

In contrast, Apple share decline has been mirrored by its weighting with hedge funds. Apple was the top holding in 23 of the top 50 hedge funds during the third quarter, but is now the top spot in just 10 funds. Shares of Apple fell 20.2% in the period from Sept. 28 to Dec. 31, and have lost another 21.1% of their value from Dec. 31 through March 4.

Another analyst, however, cites AIG (AIG) as the most popular hedge fund holding. Goldman Sachs recently came out with a report surveying a greater number of funds, which cited AIG as the top holding. According to Citi's chart, AIG was the second most popular holding, claiming top position at 13 of the largest hedge funds, up from 10 in the third quarter.

News Corp. came in third place, according to the chart, with 11 funds holding it in the top spot, up from 8 in the third quarter. The biggest gainer was Netflix (NFLX), which took the top place in 4 of the top 50 funds in the fourth quarter, up from none in the third quarter. As a result, Netflix shares have enjoyed incredible appreciation in both the fourth quarter and since Dec. 31. Shares of the online entertainment company surged 70.1% from Sept. 28 to Dec. 31, and have climbed even more, gaining 95.7% from Dec. 31 through March 4.

Of the top 30 most widely held sectors, Consumer Discretionary was the top holding, with 26.7%. Information Technology also had 26.7% of the weighting. Energy and Financials both held 13.3% weightings, with Consumer Staples rounding out the top 5 with 10% of the weighting. Healthcare and Telecommunication Services accounted for the remaining 10%, with 6.7% and 3.3% respectively.

Below is the table from Citi's report, showing all the holdings.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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