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Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Law Requires Analysis of all Medicare Claims Before They are Paid

Thanks to the American Health Lawyer's Association for this tidbit

Small Business Act Enhances CMS' Ability to Identify
Fraud and Abuse

By Matthew Fornataro*

On September 27, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Small Business Jobs and Creation Act of 2010 (Act), P.L. 111-240, which is intended to spur job growth and encourage entrepreneurship among small businesses in the United States. Among other things, the Act creates approximately $12 billion in tax breaks and initiates a $30 billion fund to allow banks to increase their lending to small businesses.

In what might be a little-noticed provision, Section 4241 of the Act mandates the use of "predictive modeling" techniques to detect Medicare waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare fee-for-service program, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medicaid. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS Secretary) is required to develop and use predictive modeling and other technology "to identify improper claims for reimbursement and to prevent the payment of such claims." This new technology is intended to allow the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to analyze, among other things, provider billing patterns and beneficiary utilization patterns in order to identify not only suspicious patterns of claims, but also different networks that represent a high risk of fraud. The Act directs that the technology should be able to analyze large data sets for unusual or suspicious patterns or anomalies, or "other factors that are linked to the occurrence of waste, fraud, or abuse."

With the implementation of this new technology, CMS will ultimately utilize programs similar to those used by credit card companies in order to flag suspicious claims. Importantly, the new analyses will need to occur "before payment is made," which may force CMS to end the practice of making certain payments under the fee-for-service program without verification. At a minimum, predictive analytics will need to be used to identify potentially fraudulent activity, with the result being a hold on payment "until such time as the claims have been verified as valid."

The HHS Secretary is directed to issue a request for proposals to carry out the implementation of this new technology by January 1, 2011. The Act directs the HHS Secretary to evaluate new technology at certain intervals, though use of the new analytics must begin in the first year of implementation in the ten states identified as having the highest risk of waste, fraud, and abuse. By the third implementation year, the HHS Secretary is directed to expand the new protocol to all states for the fee-for-service program, with the fourth implementation year applying the protocol to CHIP and Medicaid.

*We would like to thank Matthew Fornataro, Esquire, (Crowell & Moring LLP, Washington, DC), and Michael Paddock, Esquire (Crowell & Moring LLP, Washington, DC) for respectively authoring and editing this alert.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Roth IRA conversion considerations

The 2010 September - October issue of Planning Perspectives, the consumer e-newsletter of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), has great information on considerations in converting your IRA to a Roth IRA this year.

Follow the Planning Perspectives link to view the issue in its entirety.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

THANK YOU Sarah!

The last two weeks have been horrific.  What was supposed to be a minor upgrade to my blog software on Godaddy turned into a major disaster as the advice from their technical support caused me to lose email, my website AND all my blog posts over the past year and a half.

Godaddy ultimately washed their hands of the problem, and told me recovering my blog posts was my problem.

Sarah, the Wonder Assistant, with no web experience, was able to do what two weeks of Godaddy technical support could not.  She actually figured out how to retrieve my blog posts, which I have reposted (not on Godaddy, of course) today.

Thanks so much, Sarah, and yes, I DO owe you a great lunch!

9/16/10 Navigating Structured Products

In recent years, structured products have gained favor among retail investors in Europe and the US. Investment banks promote these securities as sophisticated tools to help investors manage downside risk, enhance returns, or achieve other investment objectives.
Sales have grown briskly since 2006, and despite a decline after the 2008 market crisis, some industry sources expect a rebound in sales and a flurry of new products in the future.1 With this in mind, it may be useful to understand how the products work and to evaluate the costs, benefits, and tradeoffs before considering one in your investment strategy.
Basic design
A structured product is a contract that promises to pay a future amount based on the performance of an underlying asset, such as a stock, market index, or commodity. The payoff is typically linked to a preset formula. Most structured products are designed to either preserve capital or enhance returns, and are typically issued as notes.2 The notes offer a specific payout over a designated period or at maturity, and the final payout depends on the performance of the underlying asset as well as the value of the derivatives written on it. Since the product typically is issued by an investment bank, the investor is exposed to the credit risk of that entity.
One common product, a principal-protected note, generally offers a minimum return equal to the original investment, plus a potential return tied to performance of an underlying asset, such as a stock market index. If the index drops during the term, the investor gets his money back, but if the index rises, he may receive the upside gain, but usually only a part of the underlying asset's gain. Structured products can be replicated by portfolios composed of an interest-bearing instrument, such as a certificate of deposit or zero-coupon bond, equity securities, and options or other derivative securities whose performance is linked to the underlying index.3
The following summarizes a few common characteristics of structured products:
• 
Complex design: Most products have a complex design, which can make analysis of pricing, risk exposure, and potential outcomes more difficult. Some investors equate this complexity with higher potential returns, when, in fact, it may only mask high fees and risk. Worse yet, investors may not understand the range of possible outcomes. During the 2008 market crisis, some investors learned a hard lesson when the issuing firm went bankrupt or when their structured product experienced losses from poor performance of the underlying asset.
• 
Substantial cost: These products tend to carry a significant markup and costs that in some cases are difficult to quantify, especially if an investor lacks the technical knowledge to analyze the underlying components of the strategy.
• 
Replication: The payoff of virtually any structured product can be replicated in a portfolio by holding the underlying securities, then buying or selling derivatives written on those securities. In many cases, the costs associated with the replication portfolio are much lower than the structured product itself.
• 
Tradeoffs: In return for receiving a prescribed payout, investors must accept a tradeoff in the form of a lower return and/or limited upside potential. When evaluating a structured payout, remember that there is no free lunch in the risk-return tradeoff. To pursue higher expected returns, you must accept more risk. If you do not want to bear the risk, you must transfer it to other investors and pay them for taking it.
• 
Multiple Risks: First, there are the inherent risks of the underlying security (e.g., the stock or index). Investors also are exposed to credit risk of the issuing firm. The contract is an agreement with the issuer to make a pre-determined payment in the future, and thus, it is contingent on the firm being able to deliver. Liquidity risk is another issue. Although many structured products are listed and traded on exchanges, they may be difficult to sell, especially in a volatile market. To avoid a potential liquidity problem, investors should consider the time horizon of the product and attempt to match its maturity to their anticipated financial need or objective.
• 
Tax considerations: It is also important to check tax consequences. Some instruments may have certain appeal under the current tax rules. But, often, tax consequences differ according to the investment situation (e.g., whether one buys at the issuance or in the secondary market).


Who might benefit?
A structured product might help an investor who needs a specific payout at a designated point in the future and who is willing to pay another party to shoulder much of the uncertainty. But this benefit generally comes at the expense of lower yield or limited upside potential.
One example may be an individual who currently holds restricted company stock whose value may account for a significant portion of his total wealth. Although he might prefer to diversify this exposure, company rules may prohibit a sale until some future date. A structured product might provide protection against the downside risk of the company's stock (even though this might mean giving up the upside potential of the stock), and at the same time, provide better-diversified exposure to an equity index, such as the S&P 500.
Perhaps most important, investors who are considering a structured product should consider why they even need a highly structured payoff in the future—and if so, whether the payoff can be structured by other means in the portfolio. In many cases, the strategy can be replicated at a lower cost, and perhaps with less risk. Many investors would prefer an alternative that is less complex and more transparent. And as the recent credit crisis taught many investors, it is wise to avoid investing in things you do not understand.
1. Larry Light, “Twice Shy on Structured Products?” Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2009.
 
2. A reverse convertible bond is one example of a yield enhancement tool. It pays investors a higher coupon rate than other comparable bonds due to its higher risk. This risk comes in the form of the issuer having the option to pay off the debt with either cash or a predetermined number of common stock shares. The method of payment at time of maturity will depend on the stock price, and the issuer will pay with common stock when it is advantageous to do so. The reverse convertible bond was popular until the last market crisis, when many investors experienced heavy losses when they were paid off with lower-value stock shares.
 
3. A call option provides the holder the right to buy the underlying security at a given price at a certain time in the future. A put option provides the holder with rights to sell the underlying security at a pre-specified price on maturity date. (American-style options can be exercised before the maturity date, whereas European-style options can be exercised only on the maturity date.) An option holder will exercise the put or call option only if the payoff is positive.
 
Dimensional Fund Advisors is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This material is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be considered investment advice or an offer to buy or sell securities.
 
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation or endorsement of any of the products or services described in this website.


8/30/10 Fixed Income Risk in Your Portfolio

A no-nonsense description of the risks associated with fixed-income investments from Dimensional Funds
With interest rates near historical lows, some investors may be anxious about a possible rate climb and its potential impact on their fixed income investments. Rising interest rates typically cause existing bonds to lose value. While investors might hold short-term instruments to manage this risk, an interest rate decline could spoil this strategy by forcing investors to reinvest in lower yields when their short-term instruments mature.

Rate movements in either direction affect portfolio returns. This is true in any market environment, regardless of the current rate level. The larger question is how to manage the risk. As you read the financial headlines and evaluate your current fixed income exposure, it may be helpful to consider these principles about fixed income investing:

Interest rate movements are unpredictable.

Academic research offers strong evidence that the bond market is efficient, and that bond prices and interest rates are not predictable over the short term.1 This uncertainty is reflected in the often-contradictory interest rate forecasts offered by economists, analysts, and other market watchers.2

Even when the experts share similar views on the direction of the economy and credit markets, reality often proves them wrong. Last year’s Wall Street Journal forecasting survey offers a recent example.3 Among fifty economic forecasters surveyed in 2009, forty-three expected the ten-year US Treasury note yield to move higher over the next year, with an average estimate of a 4.13% yield. Only two respondents predicted rates to fall below 3.00%. The ten-year Treasury yield slumped to 2.95% on June 30, 2010, and rates on thirty-year mortgages fell to their lowest level since Fannie Mae began tracking them in 1971.

Today’s bond prices already reflect expectations for tomorrow’s business conditions and inflation, and these expectations can change quickly in response to new information. This new information is unknowable. Investors who accept market efficiency should not be surprised when the credit markets foil the experts. If prices were easy to forecast, you should find a host of fixed income managers with market-beating returns. But most of them underperform their respective benchmarks over longer time periods.4

Since no one has a reliable method for determining whether interest rates will rise or fall in the near future, investors should avoid making fixed income decisions based on a forecast, media coverage, or their own hunches.

Pursuing higher expected returns requires more risk taking.

The strong link between risk and return appears in all properly functioning capital markets. When investing in stocks, bonds, or other assets, investors must accept more risk to pursue a higher potential return.

In the fixed income markets, earning a return above short-term government instruments is usually a function of assuming more term and credit risk. Term risk refers to a bond’s maturity, and credit risk refers to the creditworthiness or default potential of the borrower. Bonds with longer maturities and lower credit quality are usually considered riskier and have offered higher yields and returns to compensate investors for higher risk.

On the term side, investors who commit their capital for longer periods of time are exposed to the amplified effects of changing interest rates. Bond prices and interest rates move in the opposite direction: When rates rise, the value of an existing bond declines; when rates fall, bond values rise. The market adjusts the price to match the yield available on a new instrument. The longer the bond’s maturity, the greater the price adjustment for a particular interest rate change. A long-term bond is more exposed to rate changes than a short-term instrument, and usually (but not always) offers a higher yield to compensate investors for the extra risk. Also, lower-coupon bonds are more affected by interest rate changes than higher-coupon bonds. For example, if rates move 1%, a bond that pays 3% will experience a greater gain or loss than one paying 5%.

On the credit risk side, the government is considered the strongest borrower in the market, so it has a lower cost of capital relative to other issuers. The most creditworthy companies are considered relatively safe, but they must still offer a higher rate than the government to compensate investors for taking more default risk. The weaker a corporate borrower’s financial condition, the more it must pay in yield to attract investors. Investors seeking higher returns on the credit spectrum must bear a higher risk of default.5

Investment strategy should drive fixed income decisions.

Investors may hold fixed income securities for a variety of reasons—for example, to reduce portfolio volatility, generate income, maintain liquidity, pursue higher returns, or meet a future funding obligation. Each objective may involve a different portfolio approach, or a combination of strategies to manage tradeoffs. For example, investors who want to maximize current income may not be strongly concerned with the effects of short-term price volatility. They may extend maturity or accept slightly lower credit quality when the market offers a yield premium for doing so. On the other hand, investors seeking long-term wealth appreciation may commit most of their portfolio to equities and keep their fixed income investments short term and high quality to buffer the volatility of stocks.

Regardless of your approach, you should know the difference between controlling risk and avoiding it. You cannot eliminate risk, but you can manage your exposure by diversifying across maturities, industries, countries, and currencies to reduce the impact of rates, inflation, currency fluctuations, and other risks. Your decision to take more term and default risk may depend on the current state of the yield curve and credit spread.

Many factors influence the direction of interest rates and performance in the bond markets, and these are too complex for anyone to reliably predict. Rather than placing your faith in the experts or reacting to economic news, manage your fixed income component from a portfolio perspective. Your strategy should reflect your overall investment goals, risk tolerance, and other personal financial considerations. This is a solid approach to managing your portfolio in an uncertain interest rate market.
1. Eugene F. Fama, “The Information in the Term Structure,” Journal of Financial Economics 13, no. 4 (December 1984): 509-528. Also: Robert R. Bliss and Eugene F. Fama, “The Information in Long-Maturity Forward Rates,” American Economic Review 77, no. 4 (September 1987): 680-692.
  2. Mark Gongloff, “Two Treasury Forecasts: a Grand Canyon-Size Gap,” Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2010.
 
3. Wall Street Journal Forecasting Survey, www.wsj.com, accessed July 7, 2010.
 
4. Christopher R. Blake, Edwin J. Elton, and Martin J. Gruber, “The Performance of Bond Mutual Funds,” Journal of Business 66, no. 3 (July 1993): 371-403. Also see Standard & Poor’s Indices Versus Active (SPIVA) Scorecard for the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe (http://www.standardandpoors.com/indices/spiva/en/us).

5. The yield curve plots the current relationship between rates and maturity, and the credit spread plots the risk-return relationship across the range of credit qualities. The curves offer a current snapshot of how markets are pricing term and credit exposure.
 
Dimensional Fund Advisors is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This material is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be considered investment advice or an offer to buy or sell securities.
 
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation or endorsement of any of the products or services described in this website.

5/28/10 Managers vs. Markets

Proponents of active management believe that skilled managers can outperform the financial markets through security selection, market timing, and other efforts based on prediction. While the promise of above-market returns is alluring, investors must face the reality that as a group, US-based active managers do not consistently deliver on this promise, according to research provided by Standard & Poor’s.

S&P Indices publishes a semi-annual scorecard that compares the performance of actively managed mutual funds to S&P benchmarks. Known as the SPIVA scorecard1, the report analyzes the returns of US-based equity and fixed income managers investing in the US, international, and emerging markets. The managers’ returns come from the CRSP Survivor-Bias-Free US Mutual Fund Database, and the managers are grouped according to their Lipper style categories.2

The graph below features fund categories from the most recent SPIVA scorecard—all US equity funds, international funds, emerging market funds, and global fixed income funds—and shows the percentage of active managers that were outperformed by the respective S&P Indices in one-, three-, and five-year periods. These are only four of thirty-five equity and fixed income fund categories. But a deeper analysis confirms that the active manager universe usually fails to beat the market benchmarks over longer time horizons. Underperformance of active strategies is particularly strong in the international and emerging markets, where trading costs and other market frictions tend to be higher.

 
Over the last five years, about 60% of actively managed large cap US equity funds have failed to beat the S&P 500; 77% of mid cap funds have failed to beat the S&P 400; and two-thirds of the small cap manager universe have failed to outperform the S&P Small Cap 600 Index. Furthermore, across the thirteen fixed income fund categories, all but one experienced at least a 70% rate of underperformance over five years. In 2009, active funds experienced more success over a one-year period, and proponents typically highlight those results in the SPIVA scorecard. However, one-year results are not consistently strong from year to year, and investors should not draw conclusions from short-term results. Over three- and five-year periods, most fund categories have not outperformed their respective benchmarks. This poor track record appears in other research, as indicated in the graph below. This study compared the same actively managed funds in the CRSP database to the Russell benchmarks and showed similar results over the three- and five-year periods. Over the past five years, about 65% of all US equity managers failed to outperform their respective Russell Indexes, and 84% of fixed income managers failed to beat their respective Barclays Capital Indices.
Of course, the results of these studies will fluctuate over time, and a majority of funds in a given category might outperform over the short term. But the message is clear:  As a group, actively managed funds often struggle to add value relative to an appropriate benchmark—and the longer the time horizon, the greater the challenge for active managers to maintain a winning track record.
        
1.  SPIVA stands for Standard & Poor’s Indices versus Active Funds. The report covers US equity, international equity, and fixed income categories. The actively managed funds are grouped according to Lipper style categories.

2.  The Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP), at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (Chicago GSB), is a nonprofit center that also functions as a vendor of historical data. CRSP end-of-day historical data covers roughly 26,500 stocks listed on the NYSE, Amex, and NASDAQ exchanges. The Survivor-Bias-Free US Mutual Fund Database includes a history of each US mutual fund’s name, investment style, fee structure, holdings, asset allocation, and monthly data, including total returns, total net assets, net asset values, and dividends. All data items are for publicly traded open-end mutual funds and begin at varying times between 1962 and 2008, depending on availability. The database is updated quarterly and distributed with a monthly lag.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an offer, solicitation, or a recommendation from Dimensional Fund Advisors or Pennsylvania Physician Advisors, Inc.
Dimensional Fund Advisors is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Pennsylvania Physician Advisors, Inc. is an investment advisor registered with the Pennsylvania Securities Commission.

4/23/10 Diversifying a Portfolio with Real Estate

Real estate as a wealth generator is hardly a new idea. People owned property long before the advent of stock exchanges and other capital markets. In more recent times, large corporations and institutions have held commercial real estate in their portfolios.  
But individual investors have not traditionally had ready access to a professionally managed, diversified real estate portfolio. This has changed in the last few decades with the development and growth of real estate investment trusts, or REITs. Now individuals can add a real estate component to their portfolio to improve overall diversification. 
What is a REIT?
A REIT is a company that owns, operates, and/or finances real estate property.1 Most of this discussion will address equity REITs, which manage different types of income-producing properties, such as hotels, office buildings, industrial facilities, apartments, and shopping centers. As commercial landlords, equity REITs typically generate dividend income from the rent paid by tenants. Many REITs in the US are traded on the public stock exchanges.  
Publicly traded REITs offer investors several potential benefits: 
·         Real estate exposure. While publicly traded REITs account for only a small portion of the real estate investment universe and the equity market, academic evidence suggests that REITs have similar returns to the overall real estate market .2
·         Low correlations with financial assets. Over longer periods of time, historical correlations of REITs and stocks have been generally low. (Correlation refers to the co-movement of asset returns. When two assets are positively correlated, their returns tend to move together; when negatively correlated, their returns are dissimilar.) 
·         Diversification. A REIT holds a portfolio of properties, which may specialize by property type and industry, or be broadly diversified according to industry and region. With the more recent advent of real estate securities overseas, investors can further diversify their exposure among foreign developed markets.
·         Higher yield, regular income, capital appreciation. Since REITs have to pay out a large fraction of earnings as dividends, they tend to offer higher-dividend income than equities, and this may benefit certain income-oriented investors. Total return of the shares is tied to income and change in market value. 
·         Distinct asset class. While REITs are considered equity vehicles and can have significant exposure to the size and value risk factors, they are generally considered to be a separate asset class, due to their low long-term correlations with stocks.
·         Liquidity and transparency. Publicly traded REITs can be bought or sold whenever the stock market is open for business. The availability of market-determined share prices can reveal information about the market’s assessment of the company’s prospects, including the ability of the firm’s management team. 
·         Tax treatment. REITs operate as “pass-through” corporations in which most income goes directly to shareholders. They typically pay little or no taxes on corporate income.3 
Investing in REITS
A REIT mutual fund that manages a portfolio of REITs typically offers more diversification than owning a single REIT. Most REIT funds are either actively managed or indexed. An active fund manager seeks to pick securities that appear undervalued—an approach that often results in over-concentration in a single category, which may raise risks and potential costs, including transaction costs and management fees. On the other hand, an index fund tries to replicate a benchmark, such as the FTSE NAREIT Equity REIT Index or the Dow Jones US Select REIT Index. Although index funds may have lower fees, securities held in the portfolios may experience buying and selling pressure when indexes are reconstituted. 
Our preferred approach is a structured strategy. Rather than trying to replicate an index, a manager may choose securities based on risk-return characteristics, diversification benefit, and favorable price negotiation. By keeping costs low and trading efficiently, a structured REIT strategy seeks to generate improved returns over time. Advantages of this approach include broader, more systematic exposure to the REIT universe at a lower cost. 
Adding a real estate component to a portfolio may be a good diversification move. But strategy and implementation are crucial, and before investing, you should consider how a real estate strategy and the REIT you select may affect your portfolio. Some factors that may come into play: 
·         Asset coverage. Most actively managed stock funds and indexes include REITs in their equity holdings. This creates the potential for overlapping asset class exposure for investors who add a REIT component in their portfolio. Treating REITs as a separate and distinct strategy helps you achieve more precise risk exposure in the asset class weights. For example, investors with significant direct ownership in real estate may want to exclude REITs from the equity component in their portfolio to better control their overall exposure. 
·         REIT category. Equity REITs may operate property in a specific area of expertise, such as retail, office and industrial, hotels, or health care facilities. Residential REITs own and operate apartment buildings and multi-family commercial dwellings, rather than single-family homes. Mortgage REITs, which lend money directly to real estate owners or invest in existing mortgages or mortgage-backed securities, are generally excluded from the equity REIT universe because they perform more like fixed income instruments, with income based on interest payments. Hybrid REITs combine the strategies of equity and mortgage REITs. 
·         Diversification. As with financial assets, owning a broad mix of REITs can help reduce specific risk in a portfolio. This diversification eliminates exposure to a single REIT category, manager style, or geographic region. Also, adding international real estate can further enhance the potential diversification benefit.4 Correlations among international REITs are low across countries, regions, and equity markets, making them a useful complement to equities in developed and emerging markets.

Risk Considerations
REITs carry stock market risk, as well as risks specific to individual real estate properties, sectors, regional markets, and the operating firm. The securities are also subject to market pressures that may push share prices above or below the value of the underlying real estate. However, identifying a market premium or discount in a REIT is difficult since the underlying asset value reported by a REIT is based on an appraisal, which may be several months old. REIT returns also depend on the buying, selling, and operating decisions of management.  
A manager may adopt risky strategies, such as heavy leveraging or lack of diversification. They may pay too much for properties, acquire poorly performing properties, change strategies regarding property mix, or make other business decisions that compromise performance. Investors holding foreign REITs or REIT funds are also exposed to risks specific to the country, such as legal structure, investment restrictions, ownership rules, tax treatment, and currency risk. 
All of this underscores the importance of knowing your risk tolerance, carefully analyzing REIT fund managers, and diversifying to eliminate exposure to a single REIT manager or category. 
Endnotes
1. Equity REITs make up about 91% of the REIT market. Mortgage REITs, which compose about 7% of the market, loan money to real estate owners or invest in existing mortgage-backed securities. Hybrid REITs combine the strategies of equity and mortgage REITs and make up about 1% of the market. Source: National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, Inc. (NAREIT). 
2. Joseph Gyourko and Donald B. Keim, “Risk and Return in Real Estate: Evidence from a Real Estate Stock Index,” Financial Analysts Journal 49, no. 5 (September-October 1993): 39-46. 
3. A US REIT must invest at least 75% of its assets in real estate and derive at least 75% of its income from real estate property or interest on real estate financing. It must also distribute at least 90% of its income to shareholders to maintain tax-advantaged status. This pass-through provision allows REIT investors to have access to the same cash flows as investors in private real estate equity. REIT shareholders, however, generally must pay taxes on income they receive from a REIT. 
4. Over the 20-year period from 1990 to 2009, the annual return correlation between US REITs and the US stock market was 0.498 (1.0 denotes exact positive correlation in returns). 
Disclosures
The information presented above was prepared by Dimensional Fund Advisors, a non-affiliated third party. 
Diversification neither assures a profit nor guarantees against loss in a declining market.  
REITs vs. US Stocks
Annual Returns: 2000-2009
Year
Dow Jones US SelectREIT Index
CRSP 1-10
Index (US Market)
2000
31.04%
-11.41%
2001
12.35%
-11.15%
2002
3.58%
-21.15%
2003
36.18%
31.61%
2004
33.16%
11.97%
2005
13.82%
6.16%
2006
35.97%
15.47%
2007
-17.55%
5.83%
2008
-39.20%
-36.70%
2009
28.46%
28.82%

US Equity REITs are represented by the Dow Jones US Select REIT Index.
The US equity market is represented by the CRSP 1-10 Index.
 
Average Annualized Returns: 1990-2009
Data Series
1 Yr
3 Yr
5 Yr
10 Yr
20 Yr
Std Dev(20 Yr)
Dow Jones US Select REIT Index
28.46%
-13.65%
-0.07%
10.67%
8.69%
20.41%
CRSP Deciles 1-10 Index (US Market)
28.82%
-4.79%
1.13%
-0.33%
8.46%
15.38%

Returns in USD. Inception dates for Dow Jones US Select REIT Index is January 1978; CRSP Deciles 1-10
Index inception date is January 1926. 
Indices are not available for direct investment, and performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. 
The Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP), at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (Chicago GSB), is a nonprofit center that also functions as a vendor of historical data. CRSP end-of-day historical data covers roughly 26,500 stocks—active and inactive—listed on the NYSE, Alternext, Amex (formerly AMEX), NASDAQ, and ARCA exchanges. OTC bulletin board stocks are not included.