Potential CRE Losses Cited as Major Economic Concern in Fed’s Financial Stability Report

Elevated commercial real estate valuations are increasingly viewed as a near-term risk that could stress the U.S. financial system, according the Federal Reserve’s October 2023 Financial Stability Report. The central bank’s semiannual report also cited inflationary pressures, interest rate increases, and global economic volatility as vulnerabilities—even though survey data was collected before the recent escalation of geopolitical tensions in the Middle East. (Fed’s Financial Stability Report, Oct. 2023)

CRE Risk Emphasized

  • Seventy-two percent of all participants in the Fed’s survey cited the potential for large losses on commercial real estate and residential real estate—along with persistent inflation and monetary tightening­—as major risks.
  • The CRE asset valuation problem noted in the Fed Report is influenced by an ongoing lack of price discovery, which creates significant refinancing challenges. GlobeSt reported Oct 24 on the report, noting that “With transactions down and many sellers holding off, waiting for improved pricing while a lot of buyers look for bargains in distress, it’s hard to tell how much properties should be worth.”

WorkPlace Return Pressure

  • The Fed report warns, “If the economy were to slow unexpectedly … investor risk appetite and asset prices might decline, and valuations in the office building sector appear particularly vulnerable given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding post-pandemic norms regarding return to work. A correction in office property valuations accompanied by even a mild recession could result in significant losses for a range of financial institutions with sizable exposures, including some regional and community banks and insurance companies.”

Additional risks that continued to feature prominently in the Fed survey were associated with the reemergence of banking-sector stress, market liquidity strains, and volatility.

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Fed Reports U.S. Financial Stability Risks Include Inflation, Asset Valuation Pressures, and Cyber Attacks

The Federal Reserve in Washington, DC

Near-term risks to the U.S. economy and financial system include inflation, asset valuation pressures and cyber attacks, according to the Federal Reserve’s semiannual Financial Stability Report released this month. (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 4)

Stability Threats

Fed Report Risks Nov 2022

  • “Higher-than-expected interest rates could lead to increased volatility in financial markets, stresses to market liquidity, and declines in asset prices, including prices of both commercial and residential real estate properties,” the central bank states in its report.
  • The report warns that such effects could cause losses at a range of financial intermediaries, reducing their access to capital and raising their funding costs—and pose adverse consequences for asset prices, credit availability, and the economy.
  • Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard stated the American financial system has held up through the turbulent developments of the past year. She said, “Household and business indebtedness has remained generally stable, and on aggregate households and businesses have maintained the ability to cover debt servicing, despite rising interest rates.”

Cybersecurity Concerns

Financial Risks Chart - Federal Reserve

  • Respondents to the central bank’s survey on stability threats also noted continuing concerns about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, high oil prices and a potential conflict between China and Taiwan. Cyber attacks pose an additional risk that “could come as retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russia,” according to the Fed’s report.
  • The Roundtable’s Homeland Security Task Force will hold a conference call on Monday, November 28 that will focus on a new Cyber Risk Summary briefing on Commercial Facilities—includes Commercial Real Estate—from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). [To register, contact Andy Jabbour of the Real Estate Information and Sharing Network (RE-ISAC)]
  • U.S. financial institutions processed approximately $1.2 billion in ransomware-related payments last year, a nearly 200 percent increase compared to 2020, according to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. (FinCEN report, Nov. 1)

Cybersecurity issues and CRE will be discussed during the next HSTF meeting on Jan. 25, 2023—held in conjunction with The Roundtable’s State of the Industry meeting. (Roundtable Weekly, Oct. 7)

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