Ride Those REITs

Real Estate Investment Trusts are cheap now. The stocks have oversold, as investors overreacted to expected U.S. Treasury rate increases this year. Since the beginning of the year REITs are down 2.54% versus a 2% gain for the S&P 500.

And yet, the Federal Reserve doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to raise rates. Last week Fed Chair Janet Yellen said that she would raise rates this year only if the economy met her economic forecast.

 Don’t bet on the economy catching fire anytime soon. A recent analysis by Bloomberg shows that since 2012 Fed policy makers have consistently overestimated the strength of the economy.

So, it’s possible that rate hikes will be more modest than expected.  

But even with rate hikes, REITs are a good deal, which gives us more faith in the Global Income Edge eight-REIT portfolio. REITs have been an excellent investment to preserve value during rate hikes, are good inflation hedges, and provide diversification because REITS don’t move in sync with the overall market.

For example, during rate hikes REITs have generated an average annual return of 11.4% over the six monetary tightening cycles that have occurred since 1979. And over the seven periods since 1979 when U.S. Treasury yields were rising, REITs generated an average annual return of 14.9%, according to a report by Cohen & Steers.

And three Wharton professors recently found the two assets providing the most dependable inflation protection have been commodities and equity REITs. Commodities equaled or exceeded inflation during 70.4% of high-inflation periods and equity REITs were close behind at 65.8%.

For example, inflation in the U.S. was 13.5% during 1979, the worst inflationary year since 1947. But dividend income from REITs averaged 21.2% that year, and total returns amounted to 24.4%.

So we hope investors will always keep in mind the value of diversification which REITs can bring, even as we recognize how powerful the promise of rate hikes in U.S. Treasuries can be to any income investor