Real estate investment trusts (REITs) continue their gravity-defying run. After exceeding the return of the S&P 500 index for each of the last six years, REITs have built up a tremendous lead in 2006, and with only two months left to go, are poised to extend their yearly winning streak.
This year started with a bang for the asset class, with REITs advancing by about 12% versus 4.2% for the S&P 500 index in the first quarter. The second quarter saw some slight losses due to a slowdown in U.S. economic growth and an uptick in 10-year yields. But REITs caught a bid in July, and are up over 30% on the year, including a sizzling 6% run in October.
The ability of real estate investment trusts to ride on expanding opportunity sets partly explains their staying power. Back in 1999, their most popular attribute was their yield. In the years that followed, REITs profited first from the housing boom, and now the bull market in non-residential real estate. Recent gains in REITs are more likely due to consolidation and speculation in the real estate industry.