One year ago, the Harvard University endowment made news when it disclosed in its 13F filing, that its biggest publicly traded holding was a junk bond ETF, an indication of not only the recent infatuation with high yield bonds (which this year has proven to be all too dear to those who are still long junk) amid an unprecedented scramble for any instrument with yield, but also of the creeping shift to passive investments as the school replaced some of its own traders with external money managers.
That was the case until the fourth quarter, when Harvard’s latest $855MM position in HYG was dissolved, and in the fourth quarter, Harvard reported only $114.2 million in long equity exposure for 13F purposes, a steep drop from the $1.02 billion in holdings in Q3 2017.
Then late on Friday, the Harvard endowment reported its latest 13F, in which it had another surprise: of its $817 million in long positions as of March 31, 2018, the vast majority, or 72% to be precise, was just three stocks: Apple (35%), Microsoft (21%) and Alphabet (16%), with the remaining positions – mostly ETFs – accounting for just 28% of Harvard Endowment’s long equity positions.
Specifically, the Harvard Management Company bought 1.69 million of AAPL. 1.85 million shares of MSFT and 129,000 of GOOGL, the latest 13F revealed.
And while these investments are just a drop in the bucket for the entire Harvard Endowment, which amounted to $37.1 billion most recently, the sheer determination by the “smartest university in the room” to have FAANG exposure, or at least AMG, at any cost, explains the relentless rise in the tech sector, which continues to hit all time highs not so much on its own fundamental merits, but because everyone – from the Swiss National Bank to Harvard – is piling their cash into just this handful of stocks.