More than 100,000 companies trade somewhere, whether it’s on a major exchange, a small regional one, or simply over the counter.
Naturally, it’s an understatement that it’s a lot to sort through. That’s why the ability to organize financial data is so important. It’s also made some people, like Michael Bloomberg, very rich.
As an investor, you need the ability to cut through the vast swath of investment information to find companies worthy of your investment dollars.
Fortunately, there’s a way to do that simply and quickly. Best of all, it’s absolutely free. You don’t need a subscription to old data, nor do you need $20,000 per year for access to a Bloomberg germinal.
I’m talking about a 13-F filing. It’s a form that institutional money managers like hedge funds are required to fill out and file with the SEC, where it’s made public. This data is updated quarterly.
Granted, there are some exceptions. The SEC will waive the requirement for some investors who are in the process of accumulating shares. They do this on the grounds that the news would send prices soaring and make further investments unlikely. This recently happened with Warren Buffett’s purchases of IBM, which were finally disclosed after he stopped buying.
The greatest advantage of the 13-F filing is that it gives all investors the ability to see what the smart money is up to. Since most investors don’t qualify to invest in these funds in the first place, these filings truly level the playing field and allow everyday investors to safely invest with the pros.
For example, Seth Klarman, the somewhat reclusive manager of Baupost Group, recently disclosed a huge stake in Hewlett Packard (HPQ) following the company’s recent losses and new organizational announcement.
Normally, following HP’s losses and change of business plan, I wouldn’t be too interested in the stock. But Baupost has returned an average of nearly 19 percent per year from 1983-2009. That’s a fantastic long-term track record.
Another successful manager with a great track record, Bill Ackman of Pershing Square, has increased stakes in Citigroup (C) and Kraft (KFT) during the last quarter. Citigroup benefits from the low interest rate environment and the possibility of more Fed easing. Kraft is a global behemoth with some of the world’s best–known brands.
There are plenty of money managers out there with enviable long-term track records. There’s no reason why you can’t invest along with them without paying management fees.
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