One of the biggest beneficiaries of the October CPI report was office REIT stocks as the sector saw double-digit gains due to the odds of further hikes diminishing, while expectations for cuts in 2024 increased. It marked the biggest gains for the sector since November 14 when the Covid-19 vaccine was announced.
One of the biggest headwinds for this group has been high levels of debt which is exacerbated by high interest rates. So, the relief rally makes sense given that lower levels of inflation would portend looser monetary policy and a decline in short and long-term rates. Many stocks in the sector have high levels of short interest which also make them more susceptible to big moves higher in the event of a positive catalyst.
However, there remains considerable uncertainty over whether these gains will last given that the fundamental outlook remains impaired. Companies continue to reduce office space as remote and hybrid work arrangements have remained even after the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, the office vacancy rate was at 9.4%, while it’s 13.5% currently.
There’s little indication that this could change as demand for new office space is subdued. According to data provider VTS, the number of new searches for office space in major cities is 47% below pre-pandemic levels.
Finsum: Office REITs have enjoyed a decent rally following the CPI report. However, the longer-term picture remains challenging with no rebound in sight for office space.