Here's What This 1,335% Gainer Has Been Buying and Selling

Every quarter, many money managers have to disclose what they've bought and sold, via "13F" filings. Their latest moves can shine a bright light on smart stock picks.

Today, let's look at Appaloosa Management, which was founded by investing giant David Tepper and known for investing in the debt of companies in distress. Tepper's investing history includes debt and stock in companies such as Enron and Worldcom. He made billions on bank stocks in 2009 after they had imploded and before they recovered. More recently, he invested in many housing-related companies.

Why should you look at Appaloosa Management's moves? Well, according to the folks at GuruFocus.com, Appaloosa gained a whopping 1,335% in the first decade of this century, compared with just 16% for the S&P 500.

The company's reportable stock portfolio totaled $4.7 billion in value as of March 31, 2013.

Interesting developments
So what does Appaloosa Management's latest quarterly 13F filing tell us? Here are a few interesting details:

The biggest new holdings are Comcast and Prudential Financial. Other new holdings of interest include Silver Bay Realty Trust (NYSE: SBY  ) , a hybrid mortgage REIT (real estate investment trust). Spun off by Two Harbors Investment, Silver Bay will focus on single-family homes, profiting from foreclosures. The company is worth watching, especially with a housing recovery under way, even though some question the recovery. In its last quarter, Silver Bay acquired 1,200 single-family properties, bringing its portfolio to 4,600. Its overall occupancy rate is 53%, but 92% among its stabilized properties.

Among holdings in which Appaloosa Management increased its stake was Fusion-io (NYSE: FIO  ) , an enterprise storage company focused on technologies such as flash memory and solid-state drives. The company posted strong earnings in its last quarter, and an upbeat outlook, sending its shares up by double digits – but then they plunged by double digits a few weeks later, when the CEO and CMO, both co-founders of the company, abruptly departed. Bulls like its purchase of NexGen Storage, but bears worry about competitors looming and don't like that much of its revenue has come from just a few key clients.

Appaloosa Management reduced its stake in companies such as Chimera Investment (NYSE: CIM  ) and Valero Energy (NYSE: VLO  ) . Mortgage REIT Chimera Investment recently yielded 10.9%, but it may become less attractive if Congress cancels favorable tax treatment for REITs. Chimera has taken on more risk than many of its brethren, and has had some trouble filing reports on time. Some still like its prospects, though, while others question its hefty management fees.

Valero Energy has roughly doubled over the past year, as refiners have been prospering recently. The company is poised to benefit  from the proposed (and controversial) Keystone XL Pipeline, and has been investing in railcars to help bring in crude from inland fields. Some worry about proposed legislation to reduce corn ethanol production, as Valero is a major producer of it, while others worry about a narrowing price gap between foreign and domestic crude.

Finally, Appaloosa Management's biggest closed positions included Oracle and the PowerShares QQQ ETF. Other closed positions of interest include Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE: FCX  ) . The world's largest publicly traded copper producer, recently yielding 3.8%, has seen its stock slump in response to a tragic and deadly mine disaster in Indonesia. It had already been hurt by the price of copper falling and growth in China slowing as well as by labor strikes. The company has diversified its operations considerably by buying a pair of oil and gas producers.

We should never blindly copy any investor's moves, no matter how talented the investor. But it can be useful to keep an eye on what smart folks are doing. 13-F forms can be great places to find intriguing candidates for our portfolios.

After putting together a blockbuster deal to expand into the oil and natural gas industry, Freeport-McMoRan will have plenty on its plate as it tries to adapt to the new industry, as expanding into oil and gas carries plenty of inherent volatility. FCX had a profitable copper business, and on top of this foray into a new industry, it still has to contend with mining industry bellwether BHP Billiton. To help investors determine if Freeport-McMoRan is a buy or a sell, The Motley Fool has compiled a premium research report on the company. Simply click here now to access your copy today.


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