Pension funds

Chart of the day: The ebb and flow of big money into Apple

December 4, 2013: 7:37 AM ET

Institutional ownership of Apple stock peaked at 74% in April and has fallen to under 64%.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 6.48.09 AM

FORTUNE -- The attached chart comes from UBS's Steven Milunovich, who on Tuesday raised his Apple (AAPL) price target $110 (from $540 to $650) and his rating (from Neutral to Buy) in large part because of the gap between the blue line and the blue shaded area in the attached chart. The gap shows big money from pension funds and other institutional investors fleeing Apple last spring and summer.

"While Apple's stock has improved," Milunovich writes, "institutional ownership has not recovered. It peaked at about 73% in April 2012 and has fallen to under 64%. Our sense speaking with investors is that many are now equal or underweight Apple relative to their benchmark, which could result in new money supporting the stock."

Milunovich maintains that the long-term trends that are hurting traditional vendors like IBM (IBM), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), EMC  Corp. (EMC), Oracle (ORCL) are now working in Apple's favor.

"It is a confusing time. However, Apple generally is on the right side of secular trends in that SMAC technologies (social, mobile, analytics, cloud) mostly benefit the company. Social and mobile increase demand for its devices while analytics and cloud support back-end services. Also, the consumerization of IT plays to its advantage. Apple has competitive challenges, but the industry wind is at its back. As a result, we expect investors will continue to move money from legacy vendors to Apple's stock." (Emphasis his)

Meanwhile, we're left with this puzzle: If pension funds have been dumping the stock since April, how did Apple's share price manage to climb out of a deep hole and recover all its 2013 losses?

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