BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) - Tick. Tick. Tick. Hear that? It's time slipping away between now and the end of 2013.
If you're a hedge fund manager, that's a very worrying sound. After all, with the S&P 500 up 25% since the start of the year after yesterday's record high close, performance expectations are high this year. And for the funds that were underexposed to stocks to start the year, that presents a real gap that needs to be filled before the calendar flips over to January again.
That's not just the case for a few select fund managers; as a group, hedge funds were underweight stocks coming into the year, and many bet on a down move in the S&P back in June. That means that there's lots of money in search of returns for the final months of the year.
And some stocks are attracting more hedge fund dollars than others this quarter...So today, we'll take a look at the five stocks that hedge funds love the most right now. To do that, we're focusing on 13F filings. Institutional investors with more than $100 million in assets are required to file a 13F -- a form that breaks down their stock positions for public consumption. From hedge funds to mutual funds to insurance companies, any professional investors who manage more than that $100 million watermark are required to file a 13F. In total, approximately 3,400 firms file 13F forms each quarter, and by comparing one quarter's filing to another, we can see how any single fund manager is moving their portfolio around. While the data is generally delayed by about a quarter, that's not necessarily a bad thing - research shows that applying a lag to institutional holdings can generate positive alpha in some cases. That's all the more reason to crack open the moves being made with hedge funds $300 billion under management. >>5 Rocket Stocks to Buy This Week Today, we'll focus on hedge funds' 5 favorite stocks from the last quarter... Facebook I've made no secret that I'm not a fan of Facebook's ( FB) stock. Hedge fund managers don't have the same concerns right now - they picked up 5.35 million shares in the last quarter, boosting their positions in the social network by 50%. That means that hedge funds are making a $790 million bet on Facebook right now. I'll concede that some things have changed. The technicals have made a complete about-face since I last talked about FB, and the fundamentals are... well, not horrific. But FB still has to do a lot in order to grow into its valuation. Until that happens, the firm has size on its side -- Facebook is the incumbent social networking site, drawing more time from users than any other destination on the web. The personal information on Facebook's servers is extremely valuable, and FB is using it to drive targeted ads. But Facebook needs to generate more revenues by adding value to the user experience, not detracting it with advertising that's only marginally relevant to what they're doing on the site. Online gaming has been a perfect example of the direction that Facebook should be moving in, even if it makes some analysts nervous. Marketing intelligence is another. An abundance of net cash on its balance sheet gives FB the dry powder to invest in taking its business a step further. Even though hedge funds bought more shares of Facebook than any other name this past quarter, I'm still skeptical.