Hedge Funds Hate These 5 Big Stocks -- but Should You?

BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- Hedge fund managers are agitated right now. With the S&P 500 up more than 26% since the first trading day in January, hedge funds are being compared against a pretty high barrier.

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And with only two weeks and change left in December, there isn't a lot of time left to play catch-up before the books close for year-end. That makes the stocks that hedge funds love right now pretty interesting -- and it makes the ones they hate even more interesting.

In my view, the performance gap means that a lot of the names fund managers are throwing away are quality stocks that they know won't close the gap on the market. But with hundreds of billions of dollars coming out of quality to chase higher-risk stocks this month, it could mean that there are some bargains in the names the pros hate.

Luckily for us, we can get a glimpse at exactly which stocks top hedge funds' hate lists by looking at 13F statements. 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.

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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. All told, 874 hedge funds filed the form for the most recent quarter, so by comparing one period's filing to another, we can get a sneak peek at how early filers are moving their portfolios around.

Without further ado, here's a look at five stocks fund managers hate.


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By far, the most unloaded name in the last quarter was search engine behemoth Google ( GOOG). Hedge funds sold off more than 2.74 million shares of the $362 billion technology stock, cutting their stakes in GOOG by close to 20%.

Already it's proven to be a pretty poor trade. While the S&P 500 has climbed 7.2% since the quarter's end, Google has rallied more than 23.8% over the same timeframe.

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Google already operates the world's most popular Internet search engine, and it has made serious efforts to expand its reach into the "next big thing." The firm's Android operating system is the dominant platform for new mobile devices, and the acquisition of Motorola's Mobility arm last year makes Google a major electronics manufacturer too.

Despite some high-profile tech products, though, Google's bread and butter remains paid search. Search advertising still adds up to more than 80% of Google's revenues, but since the majority of GOOG's side projects (from Google Drive to YouTube to Android) really support ad traffic, that isn't as big of a disconnect as it may first appear.

Those efforts at attracting eyes are paying off; Google's products currently take in around 60% of the world's web search traffic. And since paid ads are designed to connect potential customers with the vendors they're looking for, Google's ads are actually accretive to users' experience (more than can be said for some other online ad sellers today).

While Google's valuation looks a bit rich at the moment, momentum remains strong. Hedge funds unquestionably made a mistake unloading shares when they did.


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$126 billion payment network Visa ( V) is another name that's delivered market-beating performance in 2013 -- and another position that hedge funds unloaded en masse in the most recent quarter. All told, funds sold off 7.53 million Visa shares, reducing their position in the payment stock by a hefty 20%.

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Visa is the biggest payment network in the world; its logo is printed on more than 60% of the world's credit and debt cards, giving it a deep economic moat. payment card acceptance is a positive feedback loop: consumers see Visa's network accepted everywhere they shop, so they're more likely to get a Visa-braded card, and merchants see more customers whip out a Visa than any other brand, so they're more willing to keep accepting Visa. That makes the firm's network extremely hard to replicate for new networks unless they're willing to take a huge haircut on the fees they charge.

Since Visa is the payment network, not the card issuer, it doesn't carry the balance sheet risks that a conventional banking stock would. Instead, the firm's revenues are spend-centric, not lend-centric. Globally, the shift from cash to electronic payments looks likely to fuel growth for the foreseeable future in Visa, especially in emerging markets where penetration is much lower.

Visa's massive scale just means that it'll get to benefit more than peers.

Intuitive Surgical

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2013 has been a less impressive year for shares of $15 billion surgical device maker Intuitive Surgical ( ISRG); shares of the firm have slopped more than 22% since the calendar flipped over to January. So while hedge funds only sold off 983,000 shares of ISRG last quarter, it actually amounted to almost a third of their collective stake in the stock. That's a conviction sell for sure.

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Intuitive Surgical makes robotic surgical systems for hospitals that want to be able to perform less-invasive surgeries than would be possible if done by a surgeon's hand. The firm's da Vinci system is currently deployed in more than 2,500 hospitals around the globe -- and that huge installed base comes with some big benefits. There's no question that the da Vinci system has stellar growth prospects, but shares spent the last year sporting a dramatically overinflated valuation. With much of the premium now deflated from ISRG's current share price, this stock is starting to look buyable again.

As Intuitive's installed base grows, so too does the firm's ability to generate recurring revenues. While new da Vinci systems are pricey (and sales are more hard-fought), ISRG also earns revenues by selling surgical systems and the instruments they use, more machines and more surgeries mean more high-margin consumable sales.

From a technical standpoint, this stock starts to look attractive again on a move through the $400 level.

J.C. Penney

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Hedge fund managers may have been more on the money in their sale of J.C. Penney ( JCP) last quarter. Funds sold off 11.62 million shares of the department store retailer in the period, but price action ended up being the more painful hit for Penney shareholders, considering that the stock has halved year-to-date. Hedge funds still retain an 89 million share position in JCP at last count.

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J.C. Penney is a 111-year-old department store retailer that operates just over 1,100 stores in 49 states and Puerto Rico. That huge store footprint means that Penny is pretty highly leveraged, so while great execution can drive some impressive income statement performance, a series of execution misses have disproportionately hammered losses into this stock in recent years.

The unceremonious departure of Ron Johnson back in April should have left a bad taste in investors' mouths. Johnson's changes hadn't had time to fully play out, yet he was ousted in favor of former CEO Mike Ullman. The decision to destroy shareholder value by changing horses in midstream hasn't been adequately addressed by management.

Management has at least stocked JCP's shelves with a more-appealing, higher-margin merchandise mix. And the bandages on JCP's business should at least stop the cash hemorrhaging that's been stomping this stock's price in 2013.

Even though Penney looks cheap right now, the technicals suggest that it could be headed cheaper. I'd follow hedge funds' lead in December.


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The last name on our hedge funds' sell list is Broadcom ( BRCM), the $16 billion chipmaker. Even if you're not directly familiar with Broadcom's products, there's a good chance you use them; BRCM's wifi, Bluetooth and GPS chips are used in a wide array of devices.

Broadcom's expertise in building communications chips makes it a perfect match for original equipment manufacturers looking to add communications capabilities to their products; the firm was one of the first to perfect combining hardware for different technologies on a single chip. One of the most attractive (and unique) attributes about Broadcom's model is the fact that the company doesn't own its own production facilities. Instead, it outsources those tasks to third parties. While that means that BRCM leaves some profit on the table with its manufacturers, it also means that the firm is spared from the high capital costs that make semiconductors so cyclical.

Huge production volumes for mobile devices should continue to spur growth at Broadcom. As consumers shorten their upgrade cycles between subsidized phones and tablets, BRCM is able to sell more chips than ever before. So even though hedge funds sold off 18.26 million shares of this chip stock last quarter (around a third of their total stake), BRCM looks like it has upside ahead of it.

To see these stocks in action, check out the at Stocks Fund Managers Hate portfolio on Stockpickr.

-- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.


Follow Stockpickr on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

At the time of publication, author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.

Jonas Elmerraji, CMT, is a senior market analyst at Agora Financial in Baltimore and a contributor to
TheStreet . Before that, he managed a portfolio of stocks for an investment advisory returned 15% in 2008. He has been featured in Forbes , Investor's Business Daily , and on CNBC.com. Jonas holds a degree in financial economics from UMBC and the Chartered Market Technician designation.

Follow Jonas on Twitter @JonasElmerraji

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