Real Estate Funds Rally on Bullish Signals - TheStreet

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (TheStreet) -- Real estate funds rallied this week as new-homes sales jumped 11% in June. Existing-home sales rose 3.6%.

For the week ending July 30, the average real estate fund we track gained 3.5%, excluding inverse funds that sell short property stocks.

Competing measurements of housing prices point to a bullish sentiment. The S&P Case-Shiller Index, which reviews prices in 20 metropolitan areas, bottomed out, and the more sensitive Radar Logic RPX Monthly Housing Market Report showed a clear reversal in direction with a two-month increase of 4.8% in the price paid per square foot since late March.

With mortgage applications on the rise and June's median price of existing homes climbing 10.3% since January, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke described the real estate recession as "moderating."

The best-performing fund,

Direxion Daily Real Estate Bull 3X Shares

(DRN) - Get Report

, is brand new. It popped 14% in the five trading days under review. The fund is 300% leveraged to the daily performance of the MSCI US REIT Index.

The fund's initial REIT weightings are 29% specialized, 25% retail, 17% office, 15% residential, 9% diversified and 5% industrial. Top-performing real estate investment trusts in the index include

FelCor Lodging Trust

(FCH)

, up 14%;

Kilroy Realty

(KRC) - Get Report

, up 13%;

CBL & Associates Properties

(CBL) - Get Report

, up 11%; and

SL Green Realty

(SLG) - Get Report

up 10%.

The second-best-performing fund is a closed-end fund named

DWS RREEF Real Estate Fund

( SRQ). One of its 10 largest holdings,

Equity Residential

(EQR) - Get Report

jumped 9.8% in one week. The company, which owns more apartment buildings than any other tradable REIT, reported second-quarter funds from operations of 58 cents a share, beating estimates.

Investors liked that Equity Residential was able to borrow $500 million in a secured loan that should cover all the company's financial commitments through 2010.

Another holding,

HCP

(HCP) - Get Report

, up 9.6% for the period, declared another quarterly dividend in a series of payments that haven't declined since 1992. HCP's indicated dividend yield of 7.1% is attractive.

With unemployment creeping higher, it remains easier to find a home to buy than a job to pay the mortgage. In aggregate, residential home prices may have been driven down to fair value, but the tough employment environment has excessive quantities of vacant commercial property weighing heavily on this category of property prices. May's reading of U.S. commercial property prices retreated 7.6% from April, according to Moody's. REITs that lean toward residential, and away from commercial, may fare better in the next few months.

For more information, check out an

explanation of our ratings

.

Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TSC Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by TheStreet.com, covering mutual funds. He joined the Weiss Group in 1997 as a banking and brokerage analyst. In 1999, he created the Weiss Group's first ratings to gauge the level of risk in U.S. equities. Baker received a B.S. degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.B.A. with a finance specialization from Nova Southeastern University.