Direxion's Daily Real Estate Bull 3X ( DRN) was one of the fastest-growing ETFs in September, but don't take that news as a sign of recovery in real estate. DRN, part of the triple leveraged line from Direxion, had inflows of $69 million during September, finishing with assets under management of $125 million on Sept. 30. Both DRN and triple bear pair Direxion Daily Real Estate Bear 3x ( DRV) have seen solid net cash flows in 2009, according to National Stock Exchange data of $234 million and $38 million, respectively. A quick look at the numbers, however, puts all of this action into perspective. DRN's notional trading volume nearly doubled from $588 million in August to $1.03 billion in September. Still, at the end of the day, on Sept. 30, only $125 million remained. These statistics are important when assessing recent concerns about the trading of leveraged products. Back in June, FINRA warned investors that leveraged products were designed for daily trading objectives and not suited for buy-and-hold investors. Brokerage firms like Ameriprise ( AMP) and UBS ( UBS) heeded the warning and stopped marketing the leveraged ETFs to clients. The latest data, however, suggests that funds like DRN are mostly being used in their intended role: as daily trading vehicles. Traders are in and out of funds like DRN, Direxion Daily Financial Bull 3X ( FAS) and Direxion Daily Financial Bear ( FAZ) faster than most investors can blink. So has all the hysteria over leveraged funds been for naught? Education has been good for ETF investors, who are an increasingly diverse fold. Disclosure on Web sites and advertisements should serve to remind people that these products are aimed at professionals and sophisticated traitors.
But, the net growth in DRN during September is undeniable. Never mind that $1,206 million churned and burned through DRN during September - $84 million entered and remained. Are some investors truly regaining faith in the ragged real estate sector, or is the amassing of assets an institutional bet. I, for one, would stay clear of real estate for the foreseeable future. In a dark interview today on CNBC, Carl Icahn claimed that "the market is schizophrenic at this point. So you have trillions of dollars literally in consumers' hands, they don't want to spend it, they're afraid to spend it." Ichan goes on to claim that they put it in funds that are buying real estate, questioning, "Why would any individual buy a REIT that has underlying value of buildings that if you went to sell them you could never ever liquidate these portfolios." Like Ichan, I still think real estate has far to fall. Buy-and-hold investors should brush off news of DRN's growth and continue to avoid leveraged funds for the long term. The real estate market is swooning slowly as the price of office space falls through Boston and New York, a descent doomed to continue for the short term, in both commercial and residential real estate.