REUTERS - Top U.S. hedge fund managers in the fourth quarter focused on the consumer sector, with investment plays ranging from high-end auction house Sotheby's (BID.N) to eBay Inc (EBAY.O), the multinational Internet consumer-to-consumer corporation.
General Motors (GM.N) also became the flavor of the quarter with many hedge funds as the U.S. government exited its position. This year, however, the stock price has fallen nearly 14 percent, making for a rough start for new CEO Mary Barra.
But on Friday, the automaker's stock rose 62 cent, or 1.76 percent, to $35.82.
The quarterly disclosures of manager stock holdings, in so-called 13F filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, are always intriguing for investors trying to divine a pattern in what savvy traders are selling and buying.
But relying on the filings to develop an investment strategy comes with some peril because the disclosures are backward looking and come out 45 days after the end of each quarter.
Still, the filings offer a glimpse into what hedge fund managers saw as opportunities to make money on the long side. The filings don't disclose short positions, bets that a stock will fall in price. And there's also little disclosure on bonds and other securities that do not trade on exchanges.
Upon request, the SEC also permits managers to omit sensitive stock positions from 13F filings. As a result, the public filings don't always present a complete picture of a manager's stock holdings.
Here are some of the hot stocks and sectors in which hedge fund managers either took new positions or exited from in the fourth quarter.
Activist investor Marcato Capital Management, run by Mick McGuire, boosted the firm's holdings of Sotheby's by 35 percent, having bought an additional 1,200,000 shares in the auction house to now own 4,562,991.
Farallon Capital Management put on a new position in the online auction house and bought 3,295,000 shares. Leon Cooperman's Omega Advisors added a new position, buying 854,800 shares.
Tiger Consumer Management got back into Facebook Inc after exiting it in the third quarter. The filing shows the fund owned 1,384,507 shares of the social media powerhouse at the end of the fourth quarter.
Scout Capital Management closed out of its position, selling 3 million shares. Scout Capital may be going on a junk food diet, as it liquidated its entire position in Whole Foods (WFM.O) and Starbucks (SBUX.O) but added 3.9 million shares in Yum! Brands Inc (YUM.N).
The fund's owners said last month that they are splitting up and shutting down the $6.7 billion fund after 13 years. Returns were strong at 21 percent last year.
Kyle Bass's Hayman Capital announced in early December that he established a position and that the 4,606,005 million shares he owned made up nearly one quarter of his portfolio.
Bridger Capital trimmed its holdings in General Motors Co by selling 155,000 shares, but the fund still owns 1,695,000 shares, which ranks the stock as the fund's fourth largest position.
Bronson Point Management, founded by former managers at SAC and Pequot, added to its holding of GM by buying another 400,000 shares, increasing its stake by 34 percent. And Cooperman's Omega added a new position, buying 1.04 million shares of the automaker.
Meanwhile, Bass of Hayman Capital liquidated his position, selling 436,371 shares. Tiger Consumer Management sold 368,252, cutting its stake by 47 percent.
TARGET CORP (TGT.N)
Carlson Capital took a new position in Target, buying 1.4 million shares only weeks before the retailer made headlines after becoming the victim of computer hackers who stole millions of credit card records.
Blue Ridge opened a new position in Apple Inc, buying 320,000 shares, while Adage Capital Partners bought 14,200 shares.
AMERICAN AIRLINES (AAL.O)
Fresh from bankruptcy and a merger with US Airways, the "new" American has become a new favorite with money managers and the stock has climbed 38.71 percent this year alone.
Hutchin Hill opened a new position in the airline with 875,000 shares.
TIME WARNER CABLE (TWC.N)
Farallon Capital Management added to its holding of Time Warner Cable Inc in the fourth quarter by buying 1,905,500 shares. It owned 2,432,00 shares at the end of the quarter, making it the firm's biggest position.
On Thursday, a proposed all-stock deal in which Comcast Corp would take over Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion was announced.
THERMO FISHER SCIENTIFIC (TMO.N)
Aaron Cowen's Suvretta Capital opened a new position, buying 322,000 shares to make it his fund's third biggest positions, while Omega Advisors added 209,630 shares.
Adage sold 607,400 shares of the scientific instrument maker, cutting its stake by 43 percent to own 800,505 shares at the end of the quarter.
(Compiled by Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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