Markets aren't oil paintings. They're more like dynamic watercolors that never fully dry. Look at natural gas, which traded as high as $14/MMBtu in 2005 before dropping to $2 in 2012, or Netflix (NFLX),
Yet given the emotions (and income) inherent in the market, it's understandable investors tend to be "once burned, twice shy." We're naturally hesitant to return to sectors or stocks where we've previously lost money. Painful, expensive memories keep us away: rather than fight, we take flight and move on ... often to our own detriment.
For example, after the 2000 tech collapse, investors swore off former high-fliers like Priceline (PCLN)
What matters isn't how an asset performed five or ten years ago, but how it's performing right here, right now. So as uncomfortable and improbable as it might seem, now might be an opportune time to consider adding a position in exchange-traded real estate. Six years after a government-created real-estate bubble burst, there are signs the asset class is finally coming up for air.
One option: tilt international via a handful of new ETFs, all of which did not exist in the early 2000s when REITs were just beginning to come into favor. Not only are foreign REITs less widely owned than U.S. offerings, but can serve as a nominal hedge against a potentially weakening dollar. Most importantly, many are exhibiting the quiet price action of a growth stocks, not staid dividend payers we've come to associate with forsaken sectors of the market.
To avoid U.S. exposure altogether, consider WisdomTree Global ex-US Real Estate Fund (DRW),
Launched in the midst of real estate's peak, the fund fell nearly 70% in less than a year before rebounding into a range it's held since late 2009. Investors could consider a buy-stop order as the fund nears the top of the channel (about $30) with a stop-loss order towards the bottom ($23) -- and let the market itself determine whether the trade is worth its salt.
FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Developed Real Estate ex-U.S. Index Fund (IFGL)
After a stunning 52% loss in 2008, it's not surprising many burned investors tossed this option aside, likely missing a subsequent 44% gain in 2009 and 15% bump in 2010 before surrendering some of those gains last year.
Yet like the WisdomTree fund, this offering has also been channeling for a few years between $24 and $32, paying investors a 3% dividend to wait for another global run in real estate, which now might be underway. A similar approach could also be considered: using buy-stop order above $30 with a stop-loss below $24, putting one into the fund as it strengthens while cutting one's exposure if it breaks down.
That exposure has boosted performance. Despite the still lethargic U.S. economy, holdings like Simon Property Group (SPG)
The returns might surprise investors who look only at yield: the First Trust fund's 1.4% trails other offerings, including U.S.-centric benchmark iShares Dow Jones US Real Estate (IYR)
Right now, surprisingly, that strength can be found in real estate stocks. The market has clearly turned a new page.—Jonathan Hoenig is managing member at Capitalistpig Hedge Fund LLC