Apple Inc. (AAPL) Leading in Popularity Among Hedge Funds Heading Into Final Filing Day

As we head into the final day for investment managers boasting equity portfolios of at least $100 million to disclose their holdings with the SEC for the latest reporting period of March 31, one thing has already become apparent from the filings that have already poured in: Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is still the most popular stock among hedge funds. In fact its popularity only seems to be increasing. The Insider Monkey data team has tirelessly processed the latest filings to come up with the early results, based on approximately 30% of firms having filed thus far. While we’re not yet declaring the race won, it appears that Apple would have to go seriously off stride at the quarter pole to cough up its lead at this point.

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That Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) continues to be the darling of hedge funds is not a big surprise, even as investors like billionaire David Tepper fled the security heading into 2015. Thus far, 63 firms have reported an ownership stake in Apple, 26% greater than the mere 50 that are invested in Actavis plc (NYSE:ACT), which sits in second spot. That is a tremendous increase from the 9% lead Apple held over second place finisher Citigroup Inc (NYSE:Cwhen it ranked as the most popular stock among hedge funds at the end of the previous filing period.

Apple, which owns one of the most profitable businesses ever, has not disappointed investors in 2015 despite unrivaled expectations. The Tim Cook-led company has delivered record earnings in back-to-back quarters and quieted some of its more vocal investors like Carl Icahn by announcing that $200 billion would be returned to shareholders through increased dividend payments and an enhanced share buyback program that will run through the end of March, 2017.

However, while Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s shares have gained 17% year-to-date, they have been sluggish since its most recent earnings report on April 27, despite the record results and expanded capital return program. In fact shares have slid by about 3% since then. It appears that investors may now be worried about slowing growth for the most valuable company in the world, including uncertainty over the success of the Apple Watch, which will be integral to that next phase of growth. The fact that the margins on the Apple Watch will fall beneath Apple’s average margins also came as an unexpected disappointment to investors.

That will perhaps make the next filing period the more telling one as far as gauging the sentiment towards Apple goes, as we’ll see whether funds feel the easy money has now been made or whether they feel Apple is a holding for the long-term. Adage Capital Partners is one of the funds in our database which has filed for the current period and disclosed ownership of Apple.

Let’s quickly run through the remainder of the early top five results now. As mentioned, Actavis plc (NYSE:ACT) has moved into second from third, with 50 funds thus far reporting ownership in the pharmaceutical giant, which completed its acquisition of Allergan during the first quarter. Funds that have reported thus far have $2.48 billion invested in Actavis plc (NYSE:ACT).  First Eagle Investment Management and Adage Capital Partners are among the funds that reported ownership of Actavis during the current filing period.