NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Warren Buffett, George Soros, John Paulson ... investors watch every move these market mavens make, interpreting everything they say and do as a sign of things to come. If we can't get inside their minds, let's at least get a look at their portfolios when we can. We grasp at everything and anything for some guidance that can help us do what they have done: make billions. They make it sound so simple, too. But where they see deep value, the average investor often sees fear. And while they back their buys with conviction, the average investor often second-guesses their moves. The following are among the top market movers. Read on for a snapshot of their different investment approaches and their latest portfolio moves.
Latest Buys: Fiserv ( FISV), Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) Latest Sells: None Top Five Equity Holdings: Coca Cola ( KO), Wells Fargo ( WFC), American Express ( AXP), Procter & Gamble ( PG) and Kraft Foods ( KFT) Warren Buffett, who turns 80 next week, is the wise old sage of the investing world. Every quarter the market waits with bated breath to see a snapshot of the Wizard of Omaha's portfolio. Buffett's widely reported buys and sells are often mimicked by other Buffett-wannabes, not the least because the investor is famous for "buying and holding" his stocks and rarely rides the latest market wave. True to form, Buffett's latest portfolio features only one new addition, Fiserv , a technology company that caters to smaller banks. He also added beaten-down consumer stock Johnson & Johnson , which has seen a drop in valuations in the wake of increasing product recalls.
The investing world will be at a loss for his market wisdom when Buffett retires, though there is no timeline for it yet. Buffett has said he could split his role into three parts. Possible successors to manage his investment portfolio include Li Lu, a Chinese-born fund manager at Berkshire Hathaway and David Sokol, chairman of NetJets and MidAmerican Energy Holdings, two Berkshire companies. But there really can be only one Buffett.
Latest Buys: Akamai Tech ( AKAM), Salesforce.Com ( CRM), Netflix ( NFLX) and Kraft Foods ( KFT) figured among his new buys, but they are not significant holdings in his portfolio. Soros, however, increased positions in a number of his top holdings including Monsanto ( MON), Kinross Gold ( KGC) and Apple ( AAPL). Latest Sells: Petrobras ( PBR) was the most notable among his sells. Top Five Equity Holdings: SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD), Monsanto ( MON), Interoil ( IOC), Plains Exploration and Production ( PXP) and Novagold Resources ( NG) George Soros knows a bubble when he sees one. Then he goes out and buys it! That's why gold remains his top holding, even though earlier this year he called the yellow metal "the ultimate bubble." The legendary trader knows he can make money by riding a bubble while it is still inflating. But more mortal investors might be caught in the bust if they were to follow his moves too closely. With over 1,000 stocks in his portfolio, Soros moves in and out of positions quickly. During the second quarter he bought 233 stocks and sold as many. Still, you want to watch out for big moves by traders like Soros because he has his finger on the market pulse.
It is worth noting that he slashed his equity exposure (which includes his 18% holding in gold ETFs) by 42% in the second quarter. SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD) at 18.5% of his portfolio is still his top holding, even though he did shed some of his shares in the fund.
Latest Buys: Goldman Sachs ( GS), investment banking outfit American Capital ( ACAS) and regional bank Popular ( BPOP). Latest Sells: First Midwest Bancorp ( FMBI) was the only stock sold during the quarter. Top Five Equity Holdings: SPDR Gold Trust, Bank of America ( BAC), Citigroup ( C), AngloGold Ashanti ( AU) and Hartford Financial ( HIG). Four years ago, no one knew much about John Paulson. That was before he made $15 billion shorting sub-prime mortgages in 2007, with a strategy subsequently dubbed The Greatest Trade Ever in a book by the same name. In 2008, he made money shorting bank stocks and in 2009, he switched sides, making large bets on the nation's big banks, scooping them up at low valuations. Paulson, like Soros, has been bullish on gold this year; gold and financials are the fund's top two holdings. The fund manager is reportedly having a tough time this year, with his Advantage Plus Hedge fund shedding 8.8% in the first half, according to Bloomberg News reports citing investors. His Advantage Fund -- which invests in mergers and bankruptcies -- was down 6% while his Recovery Fund rose 9% in first half but fell 12% in June.
Paulson is said to have cut his net long bets more recently according to a Financial Times news report, which has been seen as a more bearish outlook from the hedge fund manager. But the fund manager has his eye out for stocks undergoing corporate restructuring and bankruptcy, according to reports citing his letter to investors.
Latest Buys: Anadarko Petroleum ( APC), Hain Celestial ( HAIN), Mentor Graphics ( MENT) and Lawson Software ( LWSN) were prominent among his recent buys. Latest Sells: Blockbuster ( BLOKA.PK) Top Five Equity Holdings: Motorola ( MOT), Genzyme ( GENZ), Biogen ( BIIB), Chesapeake ( CHK) and Amylin Pharmaceuticals ( AMLN). When Carl Icahn buys a significant stake in a company, you know big change is around the corner. The activist investor is legendary for his role in staging outright takeovers, waging proxy wars to replace management and calling for corporate restructuring to create value. He is famous for launching a proxy contest to replace Yahoo!'s ( YHOO) board of directors when it rejected Microsoft's takeover bid. He sued Motorola to gain four seats on its board, eventually settling for two. Icahn is also behind Motorola's plans to spin off its mobile business.
Most recently, Icahn has been battling to take over the film studio Lions Gate Entertainment ( LGF) which the management is trying hard to prevent.
Latest Buys: CF Industries ( CF), Macy's ( M), Banco Santander ( STD) and PNC Financial Services ( PNC). Latest Sells: Valassis Communications ( VCI), Royal Bank of Scotland ( RBS.R), Office Depot ( ODP) and NRG Energy ( NRG) were notable among sells. Top Five Equity Holdings: Bank of America ( BAC), Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Pfizer ( PFE) and Fifth Third Bancorp ( FITB). David Tepper of Appaloosa Management may not be a household name, unless your kids happen to go to Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business. But he was the highest paid fund manager in 2009. His bet on banking stocks when they were trading at never-before lows in late 2008 paid off big time, earning the fund a 120% after-fee return in 2009. He is personally reported to have taken home $4 billion, trumping Paulson's win of $3.7 billion from shorting sub-prime mortgages.
Tepper thrives on buying deep discount, distressed assets and companies on the verge of bankruptcy, which makes this a good time to watch his every step. His performance has, however, swung widely, given the concentrated nature of his bets. Shanthi Venkataraman. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/shavenk. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.