After a sharp sell-off on Friday, U.S. stocks are trying to regain some of the ground lost, having opened higher today. With no key economic data due today, investors have again turned their attention towards falling oil prices, with Brent Crude hitting 11 year low amid increasing global supply. This article, however, focuses on several iconic companies: Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Ericsson (ADR) (NASDAQ:ERIC). Let’s find out what got investors talking about these stocks today.
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Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) is trending today after the latest installment of Star Wars turned out to be a major box office hit, smashing the record for the highest revenues in the opening weekend. According to preliminary data, Star Wars: The Force Awakens racked up $238 million in North America, surpassing expectations of $215 million as well as the previous record of $209 million held by Jurassic World. Goldman Sachs predicts The Force Awakens will bring in a total of $1.95 billion over the holiday season. With the film set to become another epic success, Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger is already looking forward to 2016, having made the Shanghai theme park the main priority for the year, according to an interview with Bloomberg.
A number of hedge funds are set to miss on the Star Wars bonanza, as the total number of funds invested in Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) at the end of September fell to 48 from 60 a quarter earlier. One such example is Ken Griffin‘s Citadel Investment Group, having sold off its entire position, which previously amounted to 776,252 shares, during the quarter. Alex Snow‘s Lansdowne Partners was among the funds that actually increased their holding of the stock, reporting ownership of 8.68 million shares worth in excess of $887 million at the end of September.
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is also trending today, after Barron’s Alexander Eule suggested in a week-end article that the software titan might soar by 30% in the next 18 months as a result of the cloud revolution. The company has gone through a difficult transition period and has come out stronger, managing to revitalize its Windows operating system and Office software package. The emphasis on cloud-based services has turned Microsoft into a key player in the market, able to take on the likes of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). Eule attributes the merits of this revolution to Satya Nadella, only the third CEO in the company’s 40-year history. Since he replaced Steve Balmer at the helm of Microsoft, the stock has soared by 48% and investors believe it has more room for growth.
Hedge funds were not very quick to buy Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s comeback story, as 113 elite funds held just 5.5% of the company’s common stock at the end of the third quarter. Activist Jeffrey Ubben of ValueAct is a big fan of Microsoft, having increased his investment to 75.3 million shares valued at $3.33 billion according to his fund’s latest 13F filing.
In other news Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Ericsson (ADR) (NASDAQ:ERIC) reached a deal to end a patent dispute. Back in January, the two tech giants have locked horns in a license dispute over payments Apple was supposed to make in order to continue using Ericsson’s 4G technology. Although the terms of the new agreement are confidential, it is understood that the Cupertino-based giant will continue paying for the use of Ericsson’s technology and will work together with the Swedish titan to develop the next generation of wireless communication technology. Shares of both companies opened higher this morning, with Ericsson up by more than 5%, while Apple has advanced by less than 1% during the first hours of trading.
The second most popular stock among the funds we follow, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) could be found in the portfolios of 133 top hedge funds at the end of September, down from 144 a quarter earlier. Having reduced his holding of Apple stock for several quarters in a row, David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital changed his mind and started buying shares in the third quarter, boosting his stake by 30% to 11.2 million shares.
Only 11 of the funds we follow reported a long position in Ericsson (ADR) (NASDAQ:ERIC) at the end of the third quarter, down from 12 at the end of June. Peter Rathjens, Bruce Clarke and John Campbell were also among those scrambling for the exit, having dumped more than 80% of their investment in Ericsson during the quarter. In its latest 13F filing, Arrowstreet Capital reported ownership of just 2.53 million shares valued at $24.8 million.