The commercial real estate sectors likely to show the earliest and strongest growth as the U.S. economy improves are the highest-quality regional malls and central business district office buildings, said Jonathan Litt, managing director of Land & Buildings Investment Management. He said retailers will "look to be in the most productive malls they can find." Urban office buildings have a lot of upside because "CBD offices got hit so hard in the downturn," Litt said. The broad REIT market will benefit from "tailwinds" and can expect positive returns in 2010, he said.

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