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While you may not think of MasterCard ( MA) as an information technology stock, it is. The firm has zero exposure to lending risks, rates or consumer deposits -- instead, MasterCard runs the world's second-largest electronic payment network.

So while the financial sector fell hard in the last quarter of 2011, MasterCard managed to get institutional investors in line to buy shares -- 2.2 million shares, to be precise. For example, Chase Coleman's Tiger Global Management scooped up 171,180 more shares of the stock, which also comprises 2.2% of Ken Heebner's Capital Growth Management, in a new 289,100-share position.

In fact (and as you'll see), financially focused tech stocks made up a large portion of the tech sector's biggest buying targets last quarter. In many ways, the decision to buy MasterCard is more structural than anything else: Electronic payments are slowly eroding the popularity of cash and checks as consumer look for more convenient ways to pay for the goods and services they buy. And with one of the most well-known electronic payment brands in the world, MasterCard stands to benefit from the trend.

Technicals also likely had a lot to do with firms' buying spree in MasterCard stock. MA has shown substantial relative strength vs. the broad market in the last quarter, a statistic that statistically points to continued outperformance over a three-to-10-month time window.

MasterCard shows up on recent lists of 20 Winning Stocks Set to Post New Highs in 2012 and the 10 Best-Performing S&P 500 Stocks of 2011.

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