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Could Commercial Real Estate Trigger the Next Banking Crisis? Not According to Goldman Sachs

10 April 2023 Written by Staff Writer

As concerns surrounding the US regional banking sector begin to fade, commercial real estate has emerged as a critical topic among investors. Many prominent figures, including Bill Ackman, Elon Musk, and major financial institutions like Bank of America and JPMorgan, have predicted that the commercial real estate sector could reveal the next weaknesses in the US financial system. However, a recent report by Goldman Sachs challenges this belief.

In a research note published on Monday, strategists Lotfi Karoui and Vinay Viswanathan argued that the likelihood of a severe downward spiral involving large leveraged losses and underfunded balance sheets posing a threat to financial stability remains minimal. This perspective contrasts with the opinion of Bank of America's Michael Hartnett, who indicated in a research note last week that tightening lending standards could make commercial real estate the "next shoe to drop."

Hartnett's concerns stem from the belief that a wave of upcoming refinancings of commercial real estate loans at significantly higher interest rates could potentially trigger a credit crunch in the sector, leading to plummeting stock prices and an economic recession. Last month's collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature may further contribute to instability in the commercial real estate sector, as nervous lenders seeking to reduce their balance sheets could become more reluctant to provide financing to property owners.

Despite these concerns, Goldman Sachs strategists Karoui and Viswanathan have a more optimistic view of the situation. They acknowledge the potential for substantial problems within the office sector, a concern echoed by other analysts. However, they believe that other types of commercial real estate, such as apartments, manufacturing facilities, and warehouses, are better capitalized and unlikely to experience a drastic collapse.

The strategists stated, "We expect office loan delinquencies to materially increase, but think this is unlikely to lead to systemic risk given healthier fundamentals in other commercial real estate subsectors." In other words, while the office sector might face turmoil, other subsectors within the commercial real estate industry should be more resilient.

Karoui and Viswanathan's analysis suggests that the impact of office loan delinquencies will likely be limited due to stronger fundamentals in other commercial real estate subsectors and other segments of the credit market. They specifically mention apartment and industrial properties as examples of healthier commercial real estate subsectors.

In conclusion, the debate over the vulnerability of the commercial real estate sector within the US financial system remains a topic of contention among experts. While some, like Bank of America's Michael Hartnett, warn of the potential for a credit crunch and economic recession due to tightening lending standards and upcoming refinancings, others, such as Goldman Sachs strategists Lotfi Karoui and Vinay Viswanathan, express more optimism.

The contrasting views emphasize the importance of closely monitoring the commercial real estate sector's performance in the coming months to gauge its potential impact on the broader economy. While the office sector may face challenges, healthier fundamentals in other subsectors could help mitigate systemic risks, offering hope for a more stable financial landscape in the future.