Editors' pick: Originally published Feb. 23.
The biggest hedge funds were knocked around by the market volatility in the fourth quarter, with the top 10 largest funds losing $44 billion in the December period compared tthe third quarter of 2015.
The top 10 hedge funds had aggregated equity holdings of $159 billion at quarter's end and decreased the total number of stock positions held to 427 from 441, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence, a division of McGraw Hill Financial, in its quarterly hedge fund tracker. The report analyzed Securities and Exchange Commission 13F filings by the 10 largest hedge funds by asset size to spotlight big buying and selling trends.
That said, hedge funds were active in the quarter -- most notably by buying energy stocks. The top 10 largest hedge funds purchased a combined $1.47 billion in positions in the sector last quarter. Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD) and Williams Co. (WMB) were the two most bought energy stocks, even though the sector was the worst-performing in the fourth quarter, according to S&P Global.
The two stocks with the largest new positions in the third quarter by large hedge funds were Priceline (PCLN) and Apple (AAPL) . Hedge funds bought a combined $1.52 billion in Priceline and $1.2 billion in Apple of new equity positions.
In comparison, large hedge funds sold the most positions in the financial services sector, with a total sell off of $2.2 billion last quarter. The most-sold stock in the sector was Lloyds Banking Group (LYG) .