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Billions in commercial real estate losses could threaten banks and economy

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Bailout-panel-cites-apf-194539...

Bailout panel cites commercial real estate danger
Bailout watchdog: Billions in commercial real estate losses could threaten banks and economy

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Over the next several years, failed commercial real estate loans could litter American cities with empty stores and office complexes, cause hundreds of bank failures and weaken the economy, a watchdog report says.

Banks face up to $300 billion in losses on loans made for commercial property and development, according to a report released Thursday by the Congressional Oversight Panel. The panel monitors the government's efforts to stabilize the financial system.

The report says the defaults could lead to reduced lending and cause the eviction of families from rental properties. Bank failures also could contribute to job losses and hurt the economic recovery.

Smaller banks are more vulnerable to the losses than their larger Wall Street counterparts. That's because commercial real estate makes up a larger portion of their portfolio.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which manages bank failures and insures deposits, is under stress that will intensify over the next few years, panel chairwoman Elizabeth Warren said in a call with reporters.

Small- and mid-size banks have been failing at the fastest rate since the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. The failures are due mostly to bad loans they made for commercial projects.

Banks often lent too much for land and buildings whose prices were inflated by a real estate bubble. They also relied on rosy assumptions about the profitability of retail and office projects and did not consider the possibility of a severe recession.

Commercial property values have fallen more than 40 percent in the past three years, the report notes.