NU Online News Service, April 16, 2004, 1:08 p.m. EDT – Investments in real estate and other tangible goods are hot.[@@]

Sales of publicly registered “direct investment programs” increased to $7.6 billion in 2003, up 78% from program sales for 2002, according to the Investment Program Association, Washington.

Publicly registered direct investment programs include limited partnerships, real estate investment trusts and limited liability companies that invest in assets such as real estate, mortgage loans, oil and gas, and equipment leasing.

The programs were popular in the 1970s and 1980s, when inflation rates were high and tax laws were different. There were 296 sponsor firms in the market in 1987, when annual sales peaked at $10.7 billion.

Since then, the number of sponsor firms has dropped to 29, but the firms that are left are more experienced and better capitalized, the Investment Program Association says.

Robert A. Stanger & Company, Shrewsbury, N.J., the investment banking firm that tracks program sales for the association, says sales increased to $7 billion in 2003, from $3.7 billion in 2002, for untraded REITs; to $116 million, from $98 million, for oil and gas programs; and to $145 million, from $121 million, for equipment leasing programs.

Sales fell to $168 million, from $200 million, for mortgage loan programs.