Ivy VIP Advantus Real Estate Securities Fund

03.31.18

Market Sector Update

  • The return of volatility to the equity markets was one of the main events of first quarter. For context, the S&P 500 saw 23 daily moves of greater than +/-1% during the quarter, compared to just eight for all of 2017.
  • A higher 10-year U.S. Treasury yield, anxiety over aggressive U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) monetary policy and enthusiasm for the potential of greater corporate earnings growth resulting from the new tax laws all factored into an environment where investors favored investments that are less defensive than real estate.
  • However, institutional buyers continue to look at real estate for its attractive yields and growth prospects.
  • This dichotomy of perceptions has driven real estate investment trusts (REITs) to trade at significant discounts relative to property values.

Portfolio Strategy

  • The Portfolio underperformed its benchmark for the quarter.
  • The residential sectors were top tier performers for the quarter, having pleasantly surprised on a fundamental basis year-to-date. We believe the demographic tailwinds for the multifamily, single family rentals and manufactured home communities should continue, and are overweight all three subsectors in the portfolio. We are less constructive on the student housing REITs, where supply pressure poses more risk.
  • Data center REITs lagged for the quarter. Our expectation is that demand will continue to grow, driven by a continued global migration to cloud computing as well as the increased datacenter capacity necessitated by the growth of artificial intelligence, the internet of things and big data analytics. We remain overweight to the group.
  • The direction of health care REIT stock prices has been subject to movement (or expectations of movement) in interest rates, which mostly explains their sharp underperformance during the quarter. More fundamentally, the dual effects of slower revenue growth in senior housing operating portfolios (mainly due to new supply), and the performance erosion of skilled nursing tenants (both top line and bottom line) have fueled the downward stock performance. We remain underweight to this segment.
  • Although we closed the gap considerably during the quarter, we remain underweight to self-storage. We believe the influences of widespread excess construction and the rise of concession packages to lure new tenants continues to minimize the gains for the subsector.
  • Office REITs performed in-line with the index on average, but showed significant stock-specific performance dynamics. The top performing office stocks included coastal focused companies, particularly those with active development pipelines. The portfolio remained overweight to companies with that profile.

Outlook

  • With regard to the current commercial real estate cycle, we continue to see stable operating conditions across the sector with few material concerns on the horizon. Bank lending, commercial construction, equity allocations and overall pricing metrics remain much healthier than was often the case in previous cycle peaks. As we’ve previously suggested, simply moving into the later stages of this recovery does not mean the sector’s fundamentals will turn negative. In fact, the prospect for re-acceleration of earnings growth for 2019 appears quite plausible if current expectations for corporate earnings materialize.
  • We continue to believe that REIT share price performance will be heavily influenced by macro events, with support coming from an improving economy and gross domestic product growth while potentially rising borrowing costs, such as a rising 10-year U.S. Treasury yield, could offer resistance. Should expectations for economic growth promote a sharp, sustained rise in U.S. Treasuries, REIT stock prices will likely struggle.
  • We continue to believe that REIT share price performance will be heavily influenced by macro events, with support coming from an improving economy and GDP growth while potentially rising borrowing costs, such as a rising 10-Year U.S. Treasury yield, could offer resistance.
  • Valuations of private market transactions continue to support REIT valuations, suggesting REITs currently trade at a discount to Net asset value, while REIT pricing compared to broader fixed income and equity markets also looks attractive compared to historic averages. Significant fund raising in real estate private equity funds suggests further support for real estate valuation.

The opinions expressed are those of the Portfolio managers and are not meant as investment advice or to predict or project the future performance of any investment product. The opinions are current through March 31, 2018, are subject to change at any time based on market and other current conditions, and no forecasts can be guaranteed. This commentary is being provided as a general source of information and is not intended as a recommendation to purchase, sell, or hold any specific security or to engage in any investment strategy. Investment decisions should always be made based on an investor’s specific objectives, financial needs, risk tolerance and time horizon. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

The Wilshire U.S. Real Estate Securities Index is an unmanaged index comprised of U.S. publicly-traded real estate equity securities. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

The Ivy VIP Real Estate Securities was renamed Ivy VIP Advantus Real Estate Securities on April 3, 2017.

Risk factors: The value of the Portfolio's shares will change, and you could lose money on your investment. The value of a security believed by the Portfolio's manager to be undervalued many never reach what the manager believes to be its full value, or such security's value may decrease. An investment in the Portfolio is not a bank deposit and is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. These and other risks are more fully described in the Portfolio's prospectus. Not all funds or fund classes may be offered at all broker/dealers.

Annuities are long-term financial products designed for retirement purposes. Annuity and life insurance guarantees are based on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. The guarantees have no bearing on the performance of a variable investment option. Variable investment options are subject to market risk, including loss of principal. There are charges and expenses associated with annuities and variable life insurance products, including mortality and expense risk charges, management fees, administrative fees, expenses for optional riders and deferred sales charges for early withdrawals. Withdrawals before age 59 1/2 may be subject to a 10% IRS tax penalty and surrender charges may apply.