Here’s what billionaires like Soros, Buffett don’t reveal in their 13F filings

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Who wouldn’t want a peek at the portfolio of George Soros, Warren Buffett and other billionaire investors? And thanks to the regulators, they have to give you one.

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However, don’t put too much emphasis on these snapshots.

Monday was the deadline for the filing of a form with the Securities and Exchange Commission known as a 13-F. The SEC requires any institutional investment manager with positions of at least $100 million to reveal all long stock positions held at the end of each quarter.

It is a great way to get a feel for what the “smart money” is doing, but, as the The Tell has warned before, there are caveats.

For one, the data is old: The filings aren’t due until 45 days after the end of the quarter. So think of it as more of a month-and-a-half old snapshot. In most cases, you don’t know exactly when in the quarter the shares were bought or whether the investor has subsequently dumped them or added more.

Second, the data isn’t necessarily a complete picture. Investors must only report their long positions, so any short bets on individual stocks or on particular options won’t be apparent. That isn’t necessarily a big deal for many portfolios, particularly those held by long-term focused, buy-and-hold types.

But for hedge-fund managers, including Soros, who pursue a variety of long-short strategies, it’s worth keeping in mind that the glimpse of their investment strategies often is incomplete.

With that in mind, there were some interesting shifts. And Soros, of course, attracted a lot of headlines as his fund, Soros Fund Management, more than doubled its position in put options on the SPDR S&P 500 exchange-traded fund in the first quarter and reduced its long equity exposure. A put option gives the holder the right but not the obligation to sell the underlying security at a set price within a specified time frame. Put options tend to rise in value as the price of underlying stocks fall. In that way, they can be used as protection against a decline in the large-cap benchmark.

Such moves would seem to be in keeping with Soros’s warning in January that he had shorted the S&P 500  amid worries over an “unavoidable” hard landing in China and global deflation. Soros is considered one of the greatest hedge-fund investors of all time. The 85-year-old investor became world famous in 1992 when his huge bet against the British pound, led to the currency’s “Black Wednesday,” resulting in an ejection from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. The wager earned him the title “the man who broke the Bank of England.”

Soros also bought a sizable stake in gold miner Barrick Gold Corp.  and around 1 million call options, which give holders the right but not the obligation to buy the underlying security at a set price within a specified time, on the SPDR Gold Trust ETF .

Soros isn’t the only hedge-fund manager to take an apparent shine to the yellow metal . Renowned investor Stanley Druckenmiller, who was also once Soros’s right-hand man, earlier this month made the case for gold, and other big investors have also turned bullish on the metal.

See:Hedge-fund stars are backing gold

The big headline grabber on Monday, however, was the revelation that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.   took a new roughly $1 billion stake in Apple Inc. , sending shares of the iPhone maker soaring.

Read:This is why Apple is a classic Warren Buffett value investment

Here’s everything billionaires like Soros and Buffett don’t reveal in their 13F filings© Provided by MarketWatch
Here’s everything billionaires like Soros and Buffett don’t reveal in their 13F filings

Buffett wasn’t alone in snapping up Apple shares. An analysis by filings-tracking firm Whalewisdom.com found that 4.6% of the most closely-tracked 13-F filers took new positions in the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech behemoth in the first quarter, while 7.6% added to existing positions.

Here’s a look at Whalewisdom’s breakdown of the most popular stocks among the most tracked funds on the site that have at least five years of history, five holdings and at least 20% of their portfolio in the top 20 stockholdings:

New positions

Added positions

But remember, this peek into the holdings of a some of the smartest guys in the room is just that—a peek.

Here’s what billionaires like Soros, Buffett don’t reveal in their 13F filings