George Soros may like big banks, but his overall view on the stock market remained decidedly negative heading into the new year.
Judging by his moves in the fourth quarter, the head of Soros Fund Management and leading donor to progressive and Democratic causes believed the small- and large-cap stocks are in trouble.
The position was most likely a costly one, as the S&P 500 has rallied 8 percent since Oct. 1. More specifically, the index is up 9.4 percent since the November election of President Donald Trump, whom Soros strongly opposed.
Soros had another big losing bet in the fourth quarter — the $10.6 million he contributed to the campaign of Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Soros’ bets against stocks came in the form of puts, or options to sell, on two exchange-traded funds that track broad market indexes.
He took out a put position of 2.5 million shares on the iShares Russell 2000, a fund that tracks the small-cap index, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of Soros filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That ETF is up 21 percent since bottoming just before the election, and 12 percent from Oct. 1.
That position had a notional value — if the puts were exercised — of $330.6 million, representing a 59 percent increase from the $208.4 million value in the third quarter.
In addition, he held 493,000 shares of puts on the SPDR S&P 500 ETF, which tracks the large-cap index. The notional value of those puts was $110.2 million, a 27 percent decline from the previous quarter, according to S&P.
Soros also had a short position on industrial stocks, with $77.8 million worth of puts on the SPDR Industrial Select Sector fund. That ETF has gained 12.3 percent since the beginning of the fourth quarter.
However, Soros countered his short exposure with bets on banks.
He held $72.7 million worth of calls, or options to buy, on the SPDR Financial Select Sector ETF, which holds large-cap banks as well as other financial giants including B-class shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The fund is up nearly 27 percent since the start of the fourth quarter.
Soros did not return a request for comment.
Here’s a look at this total stock portfolio.