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REITs Insulated From Trade War Shocks (For Now)

As investors cautiously await the impacts of an open-ended trade war between the U.S. and China — which could be paused for the moment with the announcement that new tariffs on Chinese goods are delayed until March — equity REIT investors are reportedly less exposed to the impacts of the trade war. 


Overall, the stocks listed on the S&P 500 get about 37% of their revenue from overseas, while just 13% of REIT revenue is coming from overseas, Forbes reports.

In fact, Forbes Real Estate Investor Editor Brad Thomas said this year's tariffs on certain products might help REITs indirectly because the vast majority of REIT revenues are generated from existing assets.

As tariffs on steel and lumber add to already escalating construction costs, that might slow commercial development. If demand for commercial space doesn't slow down in the near future, a slower development of supply would benefit existing property owners like REITs.

REIT stocks have already shown relative stability recently compared with other kinds of equities. During the stock market gyrations in the fall of this year, REITs outperformed the broader stock market

On the other hand, in the event of a recession, demand for commercial space would suffer, and likewise the health of REITs.

It is possible that a renewed trade war would be enough to tip the U.S. economy into recession, or at least make a recession more difficult to climb out of.  

The trade war has already had an adverse impact on the U.S. economy, according to the Commerce Department. Among other effects, the export of U.S. goods and import of foreign goods have slowed.

“Twenty-five percent tariffs on Chinese goods is going to have huge implications for the global economy and could ultimately bring us into a recession,” Janus Henderson portfolio manager Richard Clode told the South China Morning Post.

Another concern, especially for investment deal volume in major cities like Chicago and New York, and thus the price of assets, is the divestment of Chinese capital. Foreign direct investment dropped by 92% year over year in the first half of 2018.

Investors from Canada, Germany and South Korea have helped offset the outflow of Chinese investment in U.S. CRE. If those investors pull out because of the tariffs, investment activity could see a slowdown.