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Hedge funds buy largest bulk of bank stocks in a year, Goldman says

Published 03/18/2024, 07:32 AM
Updated 03/18/2024, 12:23 PM
© Reuters. A trader works on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 7, 2024.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Nell Mackenzie

LONDON (Reuters) - Hedge funds piled into bank and financials stocks at the fastest pace in a year, Goldman Sachs said in a note, just in time to catch highs seen European and U.S. banking indices.

Financial stocks in North America, Europe, and emerging-market Asia were among the most sought-after stock sectors for the second week running last week, according to the note tracking hedge fund trades for the week ending Friday.

The STOXX Europe 600 banks index (.SX7P) has risen by 8.3% so far this year and is now around its highest since 2019.

The Dow Jones banking index has risen by 6.6% since the start of the year.

Hedge funds took long positions in banks and capital markets companies, ditching short bets. Consumer finance firms saw hedge funds add long positions. A short reflects an expectation that an asset price will fall.

Hedge funds were still net short insurance companies, the note said.

Bank stocks dropped sharply in March last year after the failure of U.S. regional lender Silicon Valley Bank. In that month, Deutsche Bank shares lost more than a fifth of their value and the European banking index logged its worst monthly performance since the pandemic.

Share prices in European and U.S. banks have since rocketed, led by a 60% gain for UBS and nearly 70% for UniCredit and Deutsche Bank.

The Goldman Sachs prime brokerage desk, which serves hedge funds, says their clients are long, but hold very few positions in financial companies relative to other global stocks.

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