U.S. REITs Are Red Hot

| About: Vanguard REIT (VNQ)

Summertime sizzle was on full display last week for US real estate investment trusts (REITs). These securities delivered the strongest gains for the five trading days through July 22, based on set of ETF proxies for the major asset classes. US REITs also continue to hold the top spot for the trailing one-year period.

The Vanguard REIT (NYSEARCA:VNQ) climbed nearly 1.9% last week - the fund's fourth consecutive weekly gain. In close pursuit: foreign-listed real estate securities via Vanguard Global ex-U.S. Real Estate (NASDAQ:VNQI), which added 1.3%.

Last week's big loser: broadly defined commodities. The iPath Bloomberg Commodity (DJP) tumbled 2.8%. The slide left DJP just slightly above its 200-day moving average, raising the possibility that the firmer pricing in commodities that's been visible in recent months may be vulnerable to reversing.

Meantime, the upside bias in assets overall last week continued to lift the Global Markets Index (GMI.F), an investable, unmanaged benchmark that holds all the major asset classes in market-value weights. GMI.F climbed 0.2% for the five-trading days through Friday.

In the one-year-return column, US REITs pushed higher into positive territory, rising nearly 22% in total return terms - far above the rest of the field.

What's driving REITs higher? A number of factors, including relatively high yields - an increasingly attractive feature in a yield-starved world where low and in some cases negative rates prevail. From a business-operating perspective, REITs score high marks as well, according to Brad Thomas via Forbes:

In the current environment there are not a lot of inflationary factors on the horizon and for REITs the overall costs of capital keeps dropping, which means that profit margins are widening. In our view, there are really only two catalysts that could spark a REIT selloff: (1) a dramatic rise in rates, or (2) a recession.

Just as REITs dominate the winner's circle for one-week and one-year returns, commodities are a two-time loser for those trailing-return slots. DJP remains dead last in the horse race for the major asset classes over the past year. The ETN is down nearly 13% as of last Friday vs. a year ago.

"With a few exceptions, the prices of industrial commodities have taken another hit … pressured by profit taking and renewed strength in the US dollar," Capital Economics advises in a research note. Meantime, a "glut of products" continues to weigh on energy prices.

A firmer greenback could revive prices for commodities, but relief on this front by way of a rate hike from the Federal Reserve doesn't appear likely at the FOMC meeting that's scheduled for Wednesday, July 27. Econoday.com's consensus forecast calls for no change in the Fed Funds rate, which is currently at a 0.25%-to-0.50% range. If the prediction holds, the bullish case for commodities will turn to the next FOMC confab.

"The Fed is very unlikely to spring any surprises [at Wednesday's meeting], but a September rate hike is a distinct possibility," according to Capital Economics.