Many investors are hopeful that inflation will continue moving lower which will provide relief for fixed income and equities as the Fed could start loosening monetary policy. However, KKR does not believe it’s likely. Instead, they believe we are in the midst of a ‘regime change’ in terms of the macroeconomic landscape which will require investors to adopt new portfolio management strategies.
In essence, they see inflation being structurally higher due to factors such as entrenched fiscal deficits, labor shortages, energy transitions, and increased geopolitical risk. With these conditions, stocks and bonds are more correlated as evidenced by the last 2 years. The firm believes that investors need to increase their allocation to real assets with recurring yields as a source of diversification, given the increase in bond market volatility.
Rather than the traditional real assets such as REITs, TIPs, and precious metals, they find value in real assets that have collateral-based cash flows like private real estate to provide positive returns while dampening portfolio risk.
Even if their outlook on inflation proves to be incorrect, KKR believes that real assets should outperform given that they remain bullish on economic growth and see Q4 and 2024 GDP coming in above expectations.
Finsum: KKR is bullish on real assets including private real estate as it believes inflation is going to remain structurally high and that bonds are not providing sufficient diversification.
Nuveen believes that real estate is an integral asset for multi-asset portfolios especially during periods of volatility and the recent tight correlation between stocks and bonds. Within real estate, the firm favors private real estate due to attractive yields, diversification, and uncorrelated returns.
According to the firm, private real estate outperforms during bear markets because prices are based on real transactions rather than public markets. This dampens volatility especially during periods of market stress when public equities can go haywire.
In terms of both public and private real estate, Nuveen favors the industrial sector due to expectations of continued growth in e-commerce and investments in logistics near urban locations. Another factor supporting growth is supply chain diversification which is boosting demand for space near ports on the East Coast and the US/Mexico border.
It’s also constructive on healthcare, residential, and self-storage. Within the public REIT space, the gaming sector is in favor due to high dividends and strong cash flows. Another tailwind has been consolidation in the space which is leading to upward pressure on rents.
Nuveen also believes that we are in the final innings of the Fed’s hiking cycle due to inflation moderating which could be a major catalyst for the sector going into next year.
Finsum: Nuveen is bullish on real estate particularly for the industrial, healthcare, and residential sectors. Also, it believes that we are close to the end of the Fed’s hiking cycle.
The rising rate environment has been brutal for REIT stocks with double-digit losses in 2022. In 2023, the sector saw decent gains in the first-half of the year, however these gains have been wiped out amid the breakout in longer-term yields.
However, this could be setting up a contrarian opportunity especially as the odds of a ‘soft landing’ continue to inch higher. Inflation is moderating, while the economy continues to modestly expand as evidenced by the September jobs report and upwards revisions to the July and August payroll data. In addition, Q2 GDP was better than expected, and consumer sentiment continues to move higher.
In essence, a soft landing scenario would be bullish for residential REITs. It implies no significant spike in defaults, while lower rates would also lead to a generous tailwind for the sector. In contrast, commercial REITs are facing more significant challenges and have more structural issues especially with offices and retail.
To be clear, the odds of a soft landing have increased, but it’s far from a certainty. Some threats to this outlook include a resurgence of inflation or the economy suddenly deteriorating due to pressure from higher rates.
Finsum: The odds of a soft landing have moved up higher after a recent spate of positive economic data. Here’s why residential REITs would outperform in such a scenario.
A combination of factors has led to the worst housing affordability in decades. During the pandemic, there was a surge in real estate prices as many moved out of urban locations to the suburbs due to the rise of remote and hybrid work arrangements.
This increase in demand also coincided with a tight supply-demand dynamic as new home construction has lagged population growth ever since the Great Recession and subprime mortgage crisis. Another factor supporting demand is that Millennials are entering their peak consumption years in their 30s and 40s.
Additionally, after more than a decade of low rates, current monetary policy is at its most restrictive in decades. Thus, mortgage rates are now hovering above 7%, while they were at 3% for most of 2020.
According to Andy Walden, the VP of enterprise research for ICE Mortgage Technology, household incomes will have to increase by 55%, home prices decline by 35% with mortgage rates back to 3%, for affordability to revert back to historical norms, or some combination of these factors.
Of course, such dramatic developments are unlikely. Walden believes that inventories are a key leading indicator for home prices. In recent months, there has been a modest bump in listings, but nothing significant enough to affect affordability.
Finsum: A combination of factors has led to housing becoming unaffordable for many prospective buyers, creating a major challenge for the real estate market.
The Federal Reserve’s tightening campaign surprisingly has had a muted impact on the broader economy as evidenced by continued expansion despite the highest rate in decades. In terms of the stated goal of curbing inflation, results are mixed as well.
However, the vector which immediately responded to tighter policy is real estate given that affordability has declined due to higher rates. In some markets, activity has simply cooled, while in those with poor fundamentals, prices are falling more precipitously.
Within real estate, commercial real estate (CRE) is the most challenged given oversupply and the recent rise of remote work. For Barron’s, Rob Csneryik covers why some contrarian investors are seeing opportunity in the beaten-down sector.
In essence, it’s a buyer’s market with so many traditional sources of funding out of the picture, leading to more favorable terms and higher returns. Further, there is less risk with values already down so much. Many believe that office occupancy rates will start to gradually rise especially if the economy does weaken which would give employers more leverage to force employees back to the office. CRE would also likely benefit from a mild recession as it would compel the Fed to cut rates which would turn a major headwind into a tailwind.
Finsum: Commercial real estate is the weakest segment of the real estate market. However, some contrarians see opportunities amid the carnage.
Many contrarian investors are certainly interested in buying the dip in REITs given the low valuations, generous yields, and upside in the event of a Fed pivot. Further, many components of the real estate market remain healthy such as healthcare and industrials. However, there are some risks that investors need to consider.
There are secular problems in areas like retail and office buildings due to oversupply, while there have also been significant changes in people’s behavior, affecting demand. Additionally, investors should be aware that every bear market results in a handful of value and yield traps which become plagued by balance sheet and liquidity issues especially in high-rate environments.
Value traps are situations in which stocks look attractive by conventional metrics, however these low valuations are a reflection that the market isn’t optimistic about the company’s prospects. Similarly, ‘yield traps’ are when yields look attractive, but the market is expecting a dividend cut as current payout ratios are not sustainable.
For investors interested in REITs, they must prioritize quality and strong financials. This is especially true in the current situation where the path and trajectory of monetary policy remains highly uncertain. If rates do stay elevated for a long period of time, some REITs will go bankrupt, while many will have to pay their dividends in order to remain solvent.
Finsum: REITs are attracting interest from contrarian investors, but here are some downside risks to consider.