Amazon Became Hedge Fund Favorite Just Before Shares Tumbled


Hedge funds piled into Amazon.com Inc. in the second quarter, putting themselves on the front line of losses as the stay-at-home trade began to unravel.

The online retailer dethroned Microsoft Corp. as the No. 1 stock holding among hedge funds between April and June, according to RBC Capital Markets. It also saw one of the largest increases in hedge fund popularity of any shares over that period, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. strategists wrote.

That hurt hedge fund portfolios heavily weighted in stay-at-home growth stocks at the expense of more cyclical styles like value, according to RBC.

“If, as we suspect will be the case, we get another big outperformance trade in value in the intermediate term, once current Covid clouds clear, we’d expect to see more underperformance,” RBC head of U.S. equity strategy Lori Calvasina wrote in her report on Friday.

An analysis of filings from more than 800 hedge funds by Bloomberg News paints a similar picture: 83 of them have more than 5% of their disclosed equity investments in Amazon — while the company’s peers have an average of six hedge funds that own more than 5%. They aren’t alone: all 55 analysts who rate the stock call it a “buy,” and active managers overall are overweight the shares, according to an Aug. 10 report from Bank of America.

Amazon spooked investors last month when it missed quarterly sales estimates for the first time since 2018 and warned of slowing growth in the company’s core e-commerce business. A reported plan to open several large department-store-like locations in the U.S. has so far failed to arrest a slide that’s shaved some $270 billion from the company’s market value.

Meanwhile, surging vaccinations and economic growth have spurred a mini-resurgence since late July of the value trade, which aims to buy cheap shares at the expense of overpriced names.

Earlier this year, hedge funds boosted their exposure to such cyclical names, but they later pared back those bets.

Tech and media names continued to dominate hedge fund portfolios in the second quarter, with Microsoft, Alphabet Inc., Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. rounding out the top five names on RBC’s list. The bank analyzed the holdings of 325 hedge funds based on regulatory filings.