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Shares of REITs mixed amid Stifel ratings moves

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of real estate investment trusts were mixed Monday after analysts at Stifel issued their picks for the sector.

Retail REITs underperformed the broader market last year. But Stifel analysts Nathan Isbee and Jennifer Hummert said in a report published Sunday that they expect strong performance this year as higher-end malls log the best growth.

The Stifel analysts, however, downgraded CBL & Associates Properties to "Hold" from "Buy," noting the company's lower-than-expected growth and "significant exposure" to J.C. Penney and Sears, which have had disappointing sales. CBL shares declined 11 cents to $18.39 in afternoon trading.

They also downgraded Cedar Realty Trust Inc. and Excel Trust Inc. from to "Hold" from "Buy." Cedar Realty shares fell 10 cents to $6.26 and Excel shares dropped 18 cents to $11.32, near their 52-week low of $11.23.

By contrast, the analysts upgraded Federal Realty Investment Trust to "Buy" from "Hold," citing its high-performing shopping centers and substantial development projects. Federal Realty shares rose $1.30 to $103.23.

Their other top shopping center pick is Equity One Inc., which they rate "Buy." Equity One rose 18 cents to $22.3

The analysts' top regional mall picks are General Growth Properties Inc. and Simon Property Group Inc., which they rate as "Buys." General Growth was up 4 cents at $20.25 and Simon Property rose $1.03 to $154.98.