In the bond market, commercial property investors are about as creditworthy as U.S. homeowners with subprime mortgages.
``Commercial real estate is a full-blown bubble that feels very much at a bursting point,'' said Christian Stracke, an analyst in London at CreditSights Inc., a fixed-income research firm. ``There's a fairly toxic mix of factors at work.''
The cost of derivatives protecting investors from defaults on the highest-rated bonds backed by properties more than doubled in the past month, according to Markit Group Ltd. Prices suggest traders anticipate defaults rising to the highest level since the Great Depression, according to analysts at RBS Greenwich Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut.
The seven-year rally in offices and retail properties ended in September when prices fell an average of 1.2 percent, according to Moody's Investors Service. Banks worldwide are holding $54 billion of unsold commercial mortgages, according to data compiled by New York-based Citigroup Inc. that includes fixed and floating-rate debt.
Lenders are struggling to sell loans to investors after losses on debt backed by subprime mortgages to people with poor credit caused financial markets to seize up in July and August. Bonds with AAA ratings secured by properties ranging from the Sears Tower in Chicago to trailer parks in Delaware yield about 203 basis points more than similar maturity Treasuries, up from 92 basis points on Oct. 12, according to Morgan Stanley indexes.
The benchmark CMBX-NA-AAA index of derivatives tied to the safest commercial mortgage securities rose to 102 basis points from 44 a month ago. It costs $102,000 a year to protect $10 million of bonds backed by property loans against default, up from $44,000 a month ago. Derivatives are contracts whose value is derived from assets including stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities, or from events such as the weather or changes in interest rates....MORE