When looking for stocks to buy for 2012, it may help to consider what hedge fund managers piled into during the last quarter of 2011.
Hedge funds holding at least $100 million in U.S. equity investments must disclose their holdings to the SEC through 13f filings. These filing for the fourth quarter of 2011 are in and Institutional Investor, citing data from Credit Suisse's quantitative research team, has published a list of 15 stocks most overweighted (compared to the S&P 500) by hedge funds.
Many consider hedge fund managers to be the brightest minds in the investment industry and expect them to deliver superior returns (not all agree with this assessment, however). Indeed, the S&P 500 Index lost about 7.7 percent in the past 60 months (Feb. 23, 2007 to Feb. 15, 2012) while the HFRI Equity Hedge (Total) Index gained 0.96 percent in the same period.
Following the stocks picks of hedge fund managers, even if on a delayed basis (because they bought the stocks before they filed the disclosures), may therefore sound like a great idea in theory.
In 2008, two professors - Gerald Martin of American University and John Puthenpurackal of University of Las Vegas - found that buying whatever stocks billionaire investor Warren Buffett owned a month after Buffett disclosed his ownership via regulatory filings yielded returns of 10.75 percent per year above the S&P 500 from 1976 to 2006.
Following fund managers, however, may not always yield such stellar results. First, not every fund manager is Buffett, arguably the greatest investor of all time. Second, at least one study has shown that "institutional herding" - perhaps precisely what Institutional Investor's list shows - often leads to overvaluation and ultimately underperformance.
Regardless of whether or not choosing stocks to buy from 13f hedge fund filings is really a good idea, most would agree that looking at hedge fund holdings is at least interesting.
Click "Start" to view the list of 15 stocks published by Institutional Investor*.
*Market data used in slideshow accessed on Feb. 22, 2012.