The Riskiness of REITs Surrounding the October 1997 Stock Market Decline
Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are viewed as low risk/low return stocks that exhibit defensive stock characteristics. The stock market decline of October 1997 provides an excellent opportunity to examine the riskiness of REITs during high levels of market uncertainty. We find that the decline in REIT stock values was about one-half as large as the decline of non-REIT stocks. Additionally, market uncertainty on the event day was shown with an increased bid-ask spread for all stocks. On the following day when the market decline was partially reversed, the bid-ask spreads continued to increase for non-REIT stocks, but declined for REIT stocks. This suggests that REITs, like defensive stocks in general, are less prone to significant declines during market-wide disturbances. Also, we order stocks based on the standard deviation measures of risk and show that this risk measure explains the cross-section of returns for non-REITs but is not valid for REITs.
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