Hedge fund managers buy up financial holdings in a sign of industry recovery

Prominent hedge fund managers voted with their wallets in the fourth quarter to declare the long financial crisis over, and made big bets on banks and other lenders to back that view.

John Paulson, Edward Lampert and Carl Icahn were among those who raised their bets on financial stocks during the last three months of 2009.

CIT Group, a provider of loans to small businesses and middle market companies, received a vote of confidence from several hedge fund managers for its emergence from bankruptcy in December.

Lampert’s RBS Partners reported a holding of 4.5m shares in CIT, and Paulson held 4.4m shares at the end of the quarter.

CIT appointed John Thain, who helped engineer Merrill Lynch’s sale to Bank of America and then lost his job, as its new chief executive last week.

Paulson, the fund manager who made billions betting against the US housing industry shortly before its collapse, now counts Citigroup and Bank of America among his largest holdings.