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Friday, August 10, 2007

REITs trying to establish a bottom?

With the overall market plunging over 2% yesterday, I was surprised to see REIT ETFs remain firm throughout most of the day.

The two ETFs that I watch are an admittedly small sample of the REIT universe but they both acted very similarly yesterday: they were down only fractionally which was a sign of strength compared to many other market sectors. The iShares Dow Jones US Real Estate (IYR) and iShares Cohen & Steers Realty Majors (ICF) ETFs both fell less that 0.2% which means they held on to most of the gains they made on Wednesday.

Of the two REIT stocks that I watch, their performance was completely divergent. Ventas Inc. (VTR) just announced earnings that beat expectations and its stock prise actually rose over 2% yesterday. Health Care Properties (HCP) lost about 2%.

Among other well know REITs, the same divergence was observed. Duke Realty (DRE), down 3%. Boston Properties (BXP), up almost 2%. Taubman Centers (TCO), down less than 1%. Acadia Realty Trust (AKR), up almost 2%. Archstone-Smith Trust (ASN), down almost 1.5%.

The conclusion is that the picture for REITs remains cloudy. Some real estate sectors will continue to see problems such as those involved in residential real estate. The office and industrial sectors appear stronger. Still, defaults and delinquencies have been on the rise and it will be harder for REITs of any kind to grow by acquisition with liquidity contracting as it has been lately. Yields are getting better but are still not sufficient, in my mind, to cover the risk of owning these stocks at this time.

In my opinion, it is still too early to move back into REITs. But it might be a good idea to start watching them closely at this point for signs of a reversal.

Disclosure: I own no shares in the stocks or ETFs mentioned in this article

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