Asia and Europe’s public markets continue to outperform the North American REIT market. However, global REIT markets continue to cope with the credit crunch — according to “Riding out the storm: Global Real Estate Investment Trust Report 2008,” released today, the total market capitalization of publicly-listed REITs around the world reached nearly $605 billion, as of June 30, down from $764 billion a year earlier.

“It remains to be seen when REIT markets will stabilize,” says Michael Frankel, global director of REIT Services for Ernst & Young. “REITs in Asia have been the best performers for the 12-month period ending June 2008 in terms of one- and three-year returns. With China planning to launch a pilot REIT program next year, there is likely to be renewed interest in the public REIT sector in Asia.”

As for leverage (gearing) levels, “Investors will keep taking money out of the sector,” says report author Ed Psaltis of Ernst & Young Australia’s Transaction Advisory Services group. “So we expect the much-anticipated asset sell downs, aimed at reducing gearing levels, to begin before the end of the year, assuming the disconnect between buy-side and sell-side reduces. This hopefully will help begin to restore overall investor confidence in the sector.”