Obama Administration Worries About Commercial Real Estate

According to a new report, the Obama administration is beginning to sweat over problems in the commercial real estate market:

FOX Business has learned that President Obama has been briefed by his economic team on widespread concerns for commercial real estate loans, an issue many believe could trigger the next banking crisis.

The briefing occurred as many on Wall Street fear commercial mortgage-backed securities, commonly known as CMBS, will be the next set of loans to begin placing stress on banks' balance sheets.

I've written about commercial real estate's woes several times in recent months. But this marks the first time I've heard about the Obama administration starting to worry. That's significant. It's one thing for the Federal Reserve to worry about markets -- that's its job. To give the President notice could involve far more tangible fears.

How much does commercial real estate matter? A lot. The Wall Street Journal noted last week:

Commercial real-estate loans are the second-largest loan type after home mortgages. More than half of the $3.4 trillion in outstanding commercial real-estate debt is held by banks.

In other words, the market we should least like to see go bad after residential mortgages is commercial mortgages, and that's exactly what's happening.

We might see a preemptive strike to try to stop the bleeding before another banking crisis occurs. But given the fact that the Fed has already thrown a fair amount of money at CMBS through its Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, I'm not sure what the next move would be. But someone working in the Treasury might be devising a commercial mortgage bailout as you read this.