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Top Manager Likes Real Estate (Yes, Real Estate)

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Steve Burton of ING Funds is a five-star fund manager who says investors ought to put money in -- believe it or not -- real estate.

Burton told CNBC he is recommending commercial real estate, specifically, stocks that win what he calls "the trifecta of mall companies."

Burton's three criteria are these: A rock-solid balance sheet; excellent management; and dominant market presence. These days, that final category includes international markets.

He likes Simon Property Group, Unibail, and Westfield Group.

"Each of these mall companies controls at least 25 percent of the Class A malls in their respective markets," Burton said.

Simon is a well-known American mall owner; Burton thinks the others deserve to be known as well.

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Unibail "owns ten of the 25 best malls in Europe; Westfield, out of Australia, has a dominant market presence not only in Australia, but owns malls here in the U.S. as well as in the U.K."

He called it an "easy way for the small investor to gain instant access to the global markets."