Yields have almost never been lower. In some cases, they are at all-time lows. This has made income-oriented investments a real challenge. So how can investors get great yields right now? Well the first thing to bear in mind right now is that to get really juicy yields, one is going to have to take some risk. With that understood, take a look at mortgage REITs. Mortgage REITs took a huge hit when the pandemic began for fear of declining credit quality in the underlying mortgages. To-date they have only recovered somewhat. However, two of the biggest—Annaly (NLY) and AGNC Investment (AGNC)—are sporting yields of 13.5% and 10.6% respectively.
FINSUM: Mortgage REITs have obvious risks right now given ongoing unemployment, but with prices low and yields high, they look like they have a place in the portfolio.
May was a rough month for the housing market, new data shows. Much of the media narrative has been on the strength of the housing market of late, but the most recent data shows that home sales fell almost 10% in May. Further, home price growth decelerated from 4.6% to 4.5% in the same month. Some economists think home price growth figures are being artificially inflated by the total lack of homes for sale, with inventory very low.
FINSUM: It is hard to tell how healthy the housing market actually is. In one way, it does look healthy, but the lack of inventory and its relationship to prices reminds us when corporate bonds market seize up and there is so little inventory that prices stay “high” because of the lack of liquidity. This is an obvious exaggeration, but there could be some truth in it.
It might seem a bit counterintuitive right now, but that may be exactly why it is a good bet. REITs have been beaten up pretty badly, and on the surface they seem likely to stay that way. Offices, retail, and other parts of the commercial real estate world look to remain weak, but Citi’s private bank thinks there is value in the sector. As to their role in a portfolio, Citi says REITs “are a way to play the U.S. economic recovery and global economic recovery without being too concentrated in the Microsofts of the world, and to add to portfolio yield on top of that while we wait for that recovery”. REITs are yielding about 7% on average and the market has been so beat up that they look underpriced relative to the value of their underlying assets.
FINSUM: The key here is either broad long-term exposure, or shorter tactical exposure to sectors that don’t look likely to be hurt (e.g. industrials, which benefit from growth in ecommerce).
In what looks like a very positive sign for the housing market, US mortgage rates have just hit an all-time low. The 30-year rate for fixed rate mortgages is 2.98%. The stat comes from Freddie Mac and it is the first time ever that rates have fallen below 3%. The super low rates have sparked a refinancing boom and stoked confidence in the real estate market. Some have wondered why mortgage rates haven’t fallen faster given the plunge in the general yield environment. According to Freddie Mac, this is because banks have been so overwhelmed with demand for mortgages that lowering rates didn’t make sense. In Freddie Mac’s words “There is no point in lowering prices to gain business you can’t close anyway”.
FINSUM: It seems like rates may fall even further as lenders catch up with demand. Overall, the housing market is looking very strong.
Investors are doing a lot of economic data analysis these days. As the economy picks up (for the most part) after the COVID lockdown, everyone is trying to guess the trend of the expansion. Well, in our search for new economic data, we found something that really stuck out to us as a positive: lumber demand. The whole lumber sector got hurt very badly in the first quarter as COVID shut down real estate construction. The collapse in demand led to a halt in production in the lumber industry. However, lumber demand for construction projects has come back faster than anyone anticipated and the supply chain cannot even keep up. Lumber prices rose 60% in the second quarter alone.
FINSUM: We think it is an excellent sign that builders and consumers have enough confidence in the economy and their financial positions to be able to create this kind of demand. V-shaped recovery?
For those interested in dividend investing, REITs have always been a key area. While rate sensitive, they can also provide strong and steady income streams. REITs may seem particularly risky as a whole right now because of the ongoing reckoning in commercial real estate as a result of the pandemic, but there are still some good opportunities to be had. The reason why is that REIT dividends, which have fallen 20% since the beginning of COVID, have likely hit their floor. JP Morgan says “that the current 3.5% dividend yield for the REIT group should be sustainable at this point.” Some of JPM’s best REIT picks right now include Brandywine Realty Trust (BDN, yielding 7.6%), Four Corners Property Trust (FCPT, 5.5%), Welltower (WELL, 5%), Medical Properties Trust (MPW, 6%), and W.P. Carey (WPC, 6.3%).
FINSUM: As obvious as it is to say, in our view, the key to REITs right now is the area of real estate they focus on. Mall REITS—probably not, storage/industrial RETS—much better.