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Thursday's News & Notes

Here are some news and notes on retail and retail real estate from around the Web today.

This story from CNN was making the rounds this morning, in part because of its misleading headline. The headline, "Is a commercial real estate bust inevitable?" plays right into the recent spate of stories asking whether commercial real estate is going to be "the next shoe" to drop. I think that angle has gotten played to death, especially since we're more than two years into a commercial real estate correction. It's not "going to drop." Commercial real estate has dropped. The real questions at this point are, "When are we going to reach bottom?" and "What's going to help the industry deal with the mountain of expiring debt now that CMBS is dead?" Those questions are actually what the CNN story is about, as it talks about Congressional hearings that occurred and asks experts what they think of the TALF and PPIP plans--ground we tried to explore with our May cover story. I agree with Real Property Alpha--this is a case of bad headline writing. In other coverage of the testimony, Zero Hedge recapped how the New York Fed Chairman drowned the talk of green shoots in commercial real estate.

The same cannot be said for loan demand. The SLOOS reports that the net fraction of loan officers reporting weaker demand in April 2009 was 60% for C&I and 66% for CRE loans, a historical low for CRE demand. Weak demand bears emphasis, as it indicates that the observed slowdown in overall credit is partly due to firms' reluctance to borrow, and not entirely to banks reluctance to lend.

In sum, while green shoots may be sprouting in bank lending for commercial purposes—real estate or otherwise—it's premature to start planning for a harvest. The combination of acute stresses in the financial markets, together with stresses on bank balance sheets, in the middle of the worst recession in a generation, should caution us from believing that recovery is just around the corner.

You can read the Fed Chairman's full testimony here.

Other stories from around the Web today:

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