When it comes to investing, going with the crowd will rarely -- if ever -- make you rich. If your objective is to buy low and sell high, then in the words of Warren Buffett, you must be "greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy." This is the foundation of contrarian investing.
But there's a twist. To be a contrarian investor, you must first know what to be contrary to. And this is where the SEC's invaluable EDGAR database comes in. Every quarter, companies and large institutional investors are required to disclose their equity holdings. By patching these together, we can get a fuller picture of a particular stock's popularity.
What follows, in turn, is a look at the principal owners of Morgan Stanley's (NYSE: MS ) outstanding common stock.
A broad overview
As you can see in the following chart, the majority of Morgan Stanley's 1.97 billion shares are held by institutional investors. Company insiders, including board members and corporate executives, own a further 0.25% of the outstanding common stock. And the public at large owns the remaining 16%.
Digging in a big further, the largest institutional stakeholders in Morgan Stanley are Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, China's sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation, the Morgan Stanley Universal Trust, bond giant BlackRock, and The Vanguard Group.
The largest buyers have been Jennison Associates and the asset management division of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) , which have recently acquired 15.7 million and 11.6 million shares of common stock, respectively. Meanwhile, the two largest sellers of late have been the asset management division of State Street and China's sovereign wealth fund, which have disposed of 120.3 million and 25.7 million shares, respectively.
Turning to inside investors, the largest inside owner is James Gorman, Morgan Stanley's chairman and chief executive officer. The second largest holder is Ruth Porat, the bank's chief financial officer. And the third largest holder is Ormond Griffith Sexton, a member of the investment bank's board of directors.
The Foolish bottom line
While insider and institutional ownership together represent only one metric, it's nevertheless an important one. Beyond hinting at the overall market's sentiment toward a stock, it also gives investors insight into the confidence of the people best positioned to predict a company's current state and future success.
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