From the Wall Street Journal:
U.S. banks have been charging off soured commercial mortgages at the fastest pace in nearly 20 years, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. At that rate, losses on loans used to finance offices, shopping malls, hotels, apartments and other commercial property could reach about $30 billion by the end of 2009.
The losses by regional banks on their commercial real-estate loans will be among the most watched details as thousands of banks report second-quarter results over the next two weeks. Many of the most troubled banks have heavy exposure to commercial real estate. So far, 57 banks have failed this year.
The $30 billion estimate is based on financial reports filed by more than 8,000 banks for the first quarter. The trend continued as a handful of major banks reported second-quarter results, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. Regional banks tend to have higher exposure to commercial real estate than these big financial institutions.
The commercial real-estate market, valued at about $6.7 trillion, represents 13% of the U.S.’s gross domestic product. But the recession and scarce credit are pushing more commercial developers and investors into default. Meanwhile, property values continue to decline, and banks are required to record a loss on any troubled real-estate loans where the appraised value falls below the amount owed.
Delinquencies on commercial mortgages held by banks more than doubled to about 4.3% in the second quarter from a year earlier, Foresight Analytics estimates. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.), who heads the House’s Joint Economic Committee, said she is working with Treasury Department officials on a plan to try to head off rising defaults on commercial mortgages before they cascade into a crisis.
In contrast to home loans, the majority of which were made by about 10 lenders, thousands of U.S. banks, especially regional and community banks, loaded up on commercial-property debt.