REITs performed well in 2011 despite the challenges of the year and are poised to deliver a similar performance in 2012, according to Morningstar REIT analysts Philip Martin and Jason Ren. "We think there's a lot of opportunity for public REITs to use their cost of capital advantages and grow their balance sheets," Ren said. However, Martin added, with low rates and an uncertain environment, REITs may want to "focus more on dividends and instead of external growth, potentially organic growth."

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