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By Sam Forgione, Katya Wachtel and Svea Herbst-Bayliss
NEW YORK/BOSTON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Top U.S. hedge fund managers in the third quarter zoned in on the consumer sector, with investment plays ranging from Sotheby's, a high-end auction house that caters to millionaires, to J.C. Penney Co , the struggling department store chain.
Ellington Management Group LLC, a $5.5 billion investment firm founded by Michael Vranos, took a new position in Sotheby's, as did Eric Mindich's Eton Park Capital Management.
Ellington owned 71,500 shares at the end of the third quarter while Eton Park opened an 1.94 million stake.
Daniel Loeb's Third Point, the largest shareholder in New York City-based Sotheby's with a 9.3 percent stake, has been pushing for a management shake-up.
Farallon Capital Management, a San Francisco based-hedge fund, and activist investor Jana Partners LLC opened new positions in ailing retailer J.C. Penney with 500,000 shares and 489,600 shares, respectively.
David Tepper's Appaloosa Management also picked up a stake in J.C. Penney, 737,800 shares.
Patrick McCormack's Tiger Consumer Management, meanwhile, sold out of its entire J.C. Penney exposure, dumping roughly 5.4 million shares.
The quarterly disclosures of manager stock holdings - in so-called 13F filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission - are always intriguing for investors trying to divine a pattern in what savvy traders are selling and buying.
But relying on the filings to develop an investment strategy comes with some peril, because the disclosures are backward looking and come out 45 days after the end of each quarter.
Still, the filings offer a glimpse into what hedge fund managers saw as opportunities to make money on the long side. The filings don't disclose short positions - bets that a stock will fall in price. And there's also little disclosure on bonds and other securities that do not trade on exchanges.
Upon request, the SEC also permits managers to omit sensitive stock positions from 13F filings. As a result, the public filings don't always present a complete picture of a manager's stock holdings.
Here then are some of the hot stocks and sectors in which hedge fund managers either took new positions or exited from in the third quarter.
Andreas Halvorsen's Viking opened a huge new stake in Bank of America Corp of 44.9 million shares. Viking also added 29.9 million shares to its stake in Micron Technology Inc , bringing its exposure to 37.3 million shares.
Viking took a new position in Facebook Inc of 4.4 million class A shares and new stake in Yahoo Inc of 9 million shares. Another new stake held by Viking is that in Lowe's Cos Inc of 17.4 million shares.
Viking sold its entire stake in Apple Inc of 112,200 shares and dumped its entire stake in Boeing Co of 8 million shares.
Carl Icahn's Icahn Enterprises revealed his stake in Apple was 3.9 million shares. Icahn added 6.8 mln shares to his stake in Chesapeake Energy Corp, bringing it to 66.5 million shares.
Leon Cooperman's Omega Advisors opened a stake in Realogy Holdings Corp of about 1.6 million shares and bought 1.2 million shares of Lennar Corp.
Cooperman also bought about 2.85 million shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, while Tepper's Appaloosa acquired a 1.8 million-share stake.
Omega increased its Citigroup Inc stake to 3.8 million shares from 2.6 million shares and upped its holdings in PennyMac Mortgage Investment Trust to 2.1 million from about 208,000 shares. Cooperman slightly raised his Motorola Solutions Inc stake to 3.6 million shares.
Omega sold out of its smallish 31,000-share position in Apple and its 4,850-share stake in Google Inc, while shedding Wells Fargo & Co and Las Vegas Sands Corp from its portfolio.
Tiger Consumer Management
Tiger reduced its Herbalife Ltd. stake to 768,252 shares from 2.1 million shares in the previous quarter and sold out of its Facebook and J.C. Penney positions. Tiger opened a large stake in Pandora Media Inc of 2.9 million shares.
Duquesne Family Office
Duquesne, founded by Stanley Druckenmiller, closed a position in Procter & Gamble Co, selling 566,300 shares. The firm also took a new position in Herbalife, buying 79,000 shares
Farallon Capital Management
Farallon also opened a position in Microsoft Corp of about 3.8 million shares and bought about 26.8 million shares of Dell Inc, which has since been taken private by founder Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners.
Farallon dramatically reduced its stake in Yahoo to about 1.8 million shares from 11.275 million shares. It also reduced its Visa Inc stake to 355,000 shares from 560,000 shares.
Chase Coleman and Feroz Dewan's Tiger Global Management opened a Yahoo stake of 8 million shares and increased its Netflix Inc stake to 440,000 shares from 315,000.
Tiger Global also increased its Motorola Solutions stake to 3,750,000 shares from 3 million.
John Burbank's Passport Capital closed its position in FedEx Corp., selling all 422,211 shares. Daniel Loeb's Third Point LLC bought 2 million shares of the shipping company during the third quarter and has said that he met with the Chief Executive Frederick Smith, praising the work he is doing.
George Soros' Soros Fund Management LLC opened a FedEx position of about 1.5 million shares, with a 375,000-share call option.
And John Paulson's hedge fund, Paulson & Co picked up 646,800 shares of the company last quarter as well.
Manish Chopra's Tiger Veda Management sold its stakes in Apple and Google in the third quarter. The firm sold 41,365 shares of Apple and 9,232 class A shares of Google.
Philippe Laffont's Coatue Management cut its stake in Apple by 1.1 million shares to 442,222 shares and its stake in Groupon Inc by 1.8 million shares to 2.2 million shares.
Coatue also opened a new stake in Facebook of 9.2 million class A shares.
Eton doubled its stake in Moody's Corp stake to 2 million shares from 1 million while selling out of its 4.25 million-share stake in News Corp.