As the U.S. economy continued its sluggish recovery last year and markets continued to improve, one of the brightest spots was the sector that triggered the financial collapse¬óreal estate. Real estate investment trusts have displayed a strong performance in the last couple of years, and professional investors expect that to continue in 2013. The reasons are simple: gradually improving demand combined with little growth in supply.

The FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Equity Index gained 19.7% last year, outpacing the 13% gains notched by the S&P 500. Worldwide, REITs did even better, with the FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Global Total Return Index climbing 25%. With REITs worldwide increasing dividends last year to 3.5% to 4%, they were a no-brainer for income-hungry investors. Last year U.S.-based REITs grew dividends at a double-digit pace.

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