The real estate investment trust sector yielded its highest total return in over 12 years in 2003, outperforming the S&P 500 for the third year in a row, according to SNL Financial, a Charlottesville, Va.-based information provider.The SNL Equity REIT Index returned a total of 37.5%, which "far outstrips the index's 4.0% for 2002 and beats its 1996 total return of 35.9%, previously its best annual return," the company reported. Among the various real estate sectors, health care REITs turned in the best performance last year, yielding a 56.0% return. Retail REITs also did very well, as the Retail REIT Index returned a total of 47.5% and the Enclosed Mall REIT Index returned 53.5%, SNL said. Multifamily REITs had a total return of 25.6% for the year, compared with a 5.8% decline in 2002, and office REITs returned 33.4%, versus a decline of 4.2% in 2002. The company can be found online at http://www.snl.com.

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