I recently visited the OwnershipAnalyzer.com site and did a little poking around to see who might be the largest investors in various ETFs.
It is interesting to note that the largest institutional holder in the ProShares Ultra-Short Financials (SKF) is the European bank UBS which at the end of the first quarter of 2008 owned over 318,000 shares.
UBS is not alone as other financial institutions on the list of owners, albeit with much smaller stakes, include Oppenheimer (not surprising since Oppenheimer is the home of the bank-bashing analyst Meredith Whitney), Jefferies and AIG among others.
Were these banks just hedging or taking a bearish stance on their own industry?
Even more extensive is the list of banks making bearish bets on real estate. In this case the ProShares Ultra-Short Real Estate ETF (SRS) is the chosen vehicle. On the list of institutional holders of this ETF we see positions held by Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, UBS, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Jefferies, Wells Fargo, Bear Stearns and others.
Even as many of these financial institutions claimed the worst was over and the stock market began its climb to the May high, these companies were apparently expecting more negative fallout from the financial and real estate sectors and were positioning themselves accordingly.
I guess you can't fault them for trying to make money, even if it contradicts their public statements.
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