US REITs Led Markets Higher Last Week

Real estate investment trusts (REITs) in the US topped a generally rising tide in last week’s market action for the major asset classes, based on a set of exchange-traded products. The lone weak spot over the five trading days through Dec. 15: US junk bonds.

Vanguard REIT (VNQ) was up a strong 1.2% last week, the ETF’s biggest weekly advance since early November. The latest gain was widely seen as a reaction to favorable tax treatment under consideration in the Republican tax bill that’s expected to become law this week. “The tax package appears to be favorable to REIT investors, particularly those who hold REITs in a taxable portfolio, who will see their effective tax rates drop on REIT distributions,” according to Hoya Capital Real Estate.

Meanwhile, SPDR Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond (JNK) eased 0.2% last week, posting the only loss for the major asset classes. Bloomberg reports that funds targeting high-yield bonds suffered their biggest weekly outflow last week in seven months.

For the one-year trend, emerging markets stocks continue remain in the lead. Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets (VWO) is up 26.9% on a total return basis for the year through last week’s close. A close second: foreign REITs/real estate. Vanguard Global ex-US Real Estate (VNQI) is currently posting a 26.0% one-year gain.

Broadly defined commodities continue to suffer the only loss for the one-year window for the major asset classes. The iPath Bloomberg Commodity (DJP) is off 3.4% vs. its year-earlier price.

Although commodities remain out of favor, some analysts are expecting the tide to turn in 2018. Goldman Sachs, for instance, reasoned last week that global growth will lift commodity prices next year. “The demand backdrop today is now even stronger than a year ago, with robust and synchronous global growth clearly evident.” As a result, “we maintain our 12-month overweight recommendation [for commodities], now with a forecasted return of almost 10%.”

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