AIG No Longer the Hedge Fund Favorite -- or Is It?

For the past few quarters, American International Group (NYSE: AIG  ) was king of the hedge fund hill, with more money managers picking the insurer than the perennial favorites, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) . But alas, all reigns come to an end, and the tech giants have reclaimed the top two spots once again. But one interesting data point may prove that AIG is still the top choice for hedge funds going forward.

All about the numbers
Produced each quarter, the Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund Trend Monitor provides data on over 700 hedge funds totaling $1.7 trillion in gross assets. Based on the number of hedge funds investing in the individual stocks, Goldman Sachs can pronounce the winner each quarter. Here were the third quarter's top five:

Company No. of Hedge Funds % of Equity Owned by HF Total Return YTD
Apple  184  2%  0%
Google  165  3%  45%
AIG  163  12%  38%
General Motors (NYSE: GM  )  154  10%  32%
Citigroup (NYSE: C  )  139  3%

 29%

Source: Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund Trend Monitor Q3 2013. Returns as of Nov. 19, 2013.

Based solely on the number of hedge funds investing in its shares, Apple blows away the competition, while Google and AIG battle for runner-up. But Goldman takes the analysis a step further.

Quality over quantity?
When looking at the top 10 positions in each of the hedge funds reviewed, AIG tops the list once again, with Apple falling to second place. As the table shows, 12% of all AIG stock is owned by hedge funds, marking confidence in the company's turnaround story. Though Apple remains the leader of the tech pack, its year-to-date return of exactly 0% has to be more than disappointing to both money managers and the average investor alike.

Much like the AIG story, as told by the Trend Monitor, General Motors is highly popular among money managers. And with the remaining shares held by the government potentially on the block by the end of the year, it could reach a higher spot on the rankings during the fourth quarter.

Citigroup is also on the rise with investors. And though it has produced the second lowest return so far in 2013, 29% isn't so shabby. The company has been working through some legal issues -- and it's not alone in this among the nation's largest banks at the moment -- but it remains a convincing opportunity for investors looking at big banks.

Bigger story here
One of the clearest trends from the Goldman Sachs report is that hedge funds are confident in companies that are either very well established and still innovating (Apple and Google) or convincing recovery stories from the financial crisis (AIG, GM, and Citi). Though the top return this year so far has come from Google, the second category provided consistent returns close to or above the 30% mark.

Though it's not wise to base your entire investing strategy on the portfolio trends of hedge funds, some valuable information can be learned by watching the professionals. Be sure to keep an eye out for more coverage of the hedge fund favorites, but be careful of following too closely -- hedge funds have been outperformed by the market by more than 17% year to date.

Top picks can be important
Though The Motley Fool isn't a hedge fund, we've got some serious knowledge to share. The market stormed out to huge gains across 2013, leaving investors on the sidelines burned. However, opportunistic investors can still find huge winners. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has just hand-picked one such opportunity in our new report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." To find out which stock it is and read our in-depth report, simply click here. It's free!


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