Large hedge funds moved out of financial stocks in first quarter

John Burbank III, founder of Passport Capital, speaks on a panel at the annual Skybridge Alternatives Conference (SALT) in Las Vegas May 7, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Several big-name hedge fund investors trimmed their stakes in financial companies in the first quarter as hopes for immediate tax cuts and loosening of regulations after President Donald Trump’s victory in November began to fade.

Boston-based Adage Capital Management cut its position in Wells Fargo & Co, which has come under fire for its sales practices, by 3.9 million shares, according to regulatory filings, while John Burbank’s Passport Capital cut its stake in the company by 947,000 shares.

Third Point cut its stake in JPMorgan Chase & Co by 28 percent, to 3.75 million shares, while Suvretta Capital Management sold all of its shares of Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup Inc.

Overall, financial companies in the S&P 500 were up 2.1 percent in the first quarter, compared with 5.5 percent for the index as a whole. Financials significantly outperformed the broad market following Trump’s Nov. 8 election.

Trump had pledged to do a “big number” on the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which raised banks’ capital requirements and restricted their ability to make speculative bets with customers’ money. The Treasury Department is still filling vacancies and will not be able to complete a review of the law by Trump’s June deadline, sources told Reuters.

Quarterly disclosures of hedge fund managers’ stock holdings, in what are known as 13F filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, are one of the few public ways of tracking what the managers are selling and buying. But relying on the filings to develop an investment strategy comes with some risk because the disclosures come out 45 days after the end of each quarter and may not reflect current positions.

Bank of America Corp was one of the few large banks to gain favor among hedge fund investors in the first quarter. David Tepper’s Appaloosa Management took a new stake in the company, buying 8.7 million shares, while Dan Och’s Och-Ziff Capital Management added 12.78 million shares, increasing its position by 156 percent.

Separately, several hedge fund managers added new positions in media companies. Tiger Global bought 429,000 shares of Netflix Inc. Shares of Netflix are up 29.2 percent for the year. Omega Advisors, which is facing a U.S. Securities Exchange Commission insider trading case, added positions in Netflix, AMC Networks Inc and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.

Tiger did, however, halve its position in Google parent Alphabet Inc, whose shares are up 21 percent since Jan. 1.

Reporting by David Randall and Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Steve Orlofsky