New York (TheStreet) - In coming days hedge funds will unveil the positions they bought and sold in the first quarter, giving investors a new set of tea leaves to read on themes like M&A, activist plays and value stock picks.
But after some highly followed managers like
liquidated most of their big bank positions in the fourth quarter and others like
bought into a beginning of year bank rally on strong earnings and
-approved dividend boost plans, it will be interesting to see if any of Wall Street's smartest minds got bitten by buying
shares in the first quarter, just before its London Whale emerged at the beginning of April.
In filings that represent a snapshot of a fund's holdings at the end of the first quarter, or March 31, already David Tepper's
has upped its big bank holdings with a big purchase of
stock without buying into JPMorgan shares that have been hit in April and May as revelations of a giant and lossmaking trading position emerged. Will other funds be so lucky?
David Tepper (Appaloosa Management)
Billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper of
counted Citigroup and tech plays like a Nasdaq-based ETF
among his biggest new stock buys of the first quarter. Meanwhile, the fund added to positions in
and sold off portions of stakes in
Still, after making prescient bets on
Bank of America
and Citigroup near their post-crisis share low's in 2009, Tepper avoided buying into JPMorgan in the first quarter, just before its London Whale, or Chief Investment Office, became a problem for the nation's largest bank. After liquidating positions in Bank of America and
in previous quarters, Appaloosa Management didn't reposition into JPMorgan stock. Others may not fare so well.
Hedge fund and investment managers who oversee more than $100 million are required to disclose their equity holdings, options and convertible debt on a Form 13F filed to the
Securities and Exchange Commission
within 45 days of the end of a quarter. Funds aren't required to report short positions, which bet on declines.
JPMorgan's stock has shed nearly 15% or $20 billion in market value since the bank disclosed a $2 billion
roughly 45 days into the second-quarter that's tied to a synthetic credit portfolio at its Chief Investment Office, where the bank invests its excess capital for hedging benefits and trading gains.
That loss led to a share tumble, diminished second quarter earnings expectations and a
of JPMorgan's debt rating by
as other agencies downgraded their outlook. On Monday, the bank
of its CIO division and now faces a string of
after chief executive Jamie Dimon called the loss an "egregious" trading mistake that showed "flawed, poorly reviewed, poorly executed" and sloppy management.
So who could might have bought into JPMorgan in the first quarter? While it's purely speculation, Warren Buffett has always spoken well of Jamie Dimon's management of JPMorgan and even his capital allocation in buying back shares. Meanwhile, the "Oracle of Omaha" has invested in most of the nation's largest banks in recent years, including preferred investments in Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and
also counts Wells Fargo,
as some of its biggest stock holdings.
Another investor to watch is John Paulson, who liquidated holdings of Citigroup and Bank of America in the fourth quarter - ahead of a beginning of year share rally. Currently, Paulson is battling with
over a breakup of the company. It wouldn't be surprising to see Paulson's appetite for banks rise --- even if it were to be mistimed. Like Tepper of Appaloosa, Paulson made a handsome profit from buying bank stocks at the peak of the crisis.
were among JPMorgan's biggest share sellers in the fourth quarter, according to
After posting gains ranging from 20% to over 50% in the first quarter, the nation's largest banks have faltered recently as financial conditions in Europe worsen and ratings downgrades loom as risks to the sector. Shares in each of the nation's five largest investment banks are off over 13% in the last month. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo - Buffett's largest bank holding - has outperformed capital markets exposed peers, dropping just over 1% in the last month, less than the
As JPMorgan braces for what may be its most contentious shareholder meeting in recent memory, an interesting subplot will be whether hedge funds bought up shares in the first quarter and are among those voicing discontent over the bank's recent trading loss and performance. Also watch to see if hedge fund buyers of JPMorgan shares in the fourth quarter like
sell out of their positions.
-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York