Despite the twists and turns that the equity markets have taken in the past year, real estate investment trusts (REITs) have managed to remain on stable ground. Next week, several leading names in the sector will be reporting their quarterly results. Not only will the earnings announcements give shareholders a chance to see how these companies have been doing from a fundamental standpoint, they will also provide a pretty good look into where these REITs are headed in 2012. (For related reading, see The REIT Way.)

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Office Space
On Monday after the closing bell, the office space REIT SL Green Realty (NYSE:SLG) will release its Q4 results. The company said at its investor day in December that it expects to finish the year with normalized fund from operations (FFO) of $4.23 per share. This amount represents around a 15% drop from SL Green's 2010 results, but management is expecting FFO to rise by 6.4% in 2012.

With the company's portfolio of properties being predominantly concentrated in Manhattan, it is insulated from the volatility of the broader U.S. real estate market. Last month, SL Green upped its quarterly dividend payout to 25 cents per share from 10 cents per share. The stock now carries a dividend yield of around 1.3% and is up more than 3.2% from where it was trading a year ago.

Boston Properties (NYSE:BXP) is slated to report its Q4 results after the market close on Tuesday of next week. Company management has issued guidance calling for Q4 FFO of $1.18 to $1.20 per share. The REIT finished its Q4 in 2010 with FFO of 64 cents per share. Shares of Boston Properties have advanced approximately 11.2% since this time last year. (For additional reading, see How To Assess A Real Estate Investment Trust.)

Residential Rally
On Wednesday of next week, AvalonBay Communities (NYSE:AVB) will announce its quarterly results after the markets close. The company has projected its FFO to be in a range of $1.19 to $1.23 per share for Q4. This metric came in at $1.01 per share in AvalonBay's Q4 in 2010.

The company has been benefiting from a 4.9% increase in average rental rates for the first three quarters of 2011 versus the comparable period in the previous year. AvalonBay has witnessed gains across the board, but most notably in its New England and Northern California communities. The company's stock price is up over 14% over the course of the past 52 weeks.

Competitor Equity Residential (NYSE:EQR) will also release its earnings after the closing bell on Wednesday. The company is expecting Q4 normalized FFO to come in at a range of 63 cents to 67 cents per share versus 61 cents in the year-ago quarter. The stock price of Equity Residential has increased around 9.1% in the past year. (To learn more, read Can Earnings Guidance Accurately Predict The Future?)

The Bottom Line
The move upwards in the stock prices of these REITs has been slow and steady since the market bottomed out in 2009. Rental rates are on the rise and FFO will follow suit. These four stocks are among the elite names in the space and next week, investors will be able to take their pulse to see how these REITs closed out 2011. (To learn more, read Top 10 Features Of A Profitable Rental Property.)

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At the time of writing, Billy Fisher did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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