Real Estate

PIMCO Warns of Up to 1,000 Regional Bank Failures Amid CRE Loan Crisis

PIMCO warns of potential regional bank failures amid $441 billion in maturing property debt and rising interest rates.

By Tal Alexander

6/11, 11:44 EDT
Signature Bank
SVB Financial Group

Key Takeaway

  • PIMCO's John Murray warns of impending regional bank failures due to high exposure to troubled commercial real estate loans.
  • Fed Chair Jerome Powell and Newmark's Howard Lutnick predict significant regional bank distress, with potential failures numbering between 500 and 1,000.
  • Rising interest rates and falling office values exacerbate risks for regional banks, which lack the cushion large banks have.

Regional Banks Face Looming Crisis

The financial world is bracing for a significant upheaval as regional banks in the United States confront a wave of potential failures. John Murray, head of PIMCO’s global private commercial real estate team, has sounded the alarm, highlighting the "very high" concentration of troubled commercial real estate loans on these banks' balance sheets. This warning comes amid a backdrop of rising interest rates and falling property values, which have already led to the collapse of several banks, including Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and First Republic Bank. Murray's prediction of more distress ahead underscores the precarious position of regional banks, which lack the diversified portfolios and risk management strategies of their larger counterparts.

The Details Behind the Distress

The crux of the issue lies in the exposure of regional banks to commercial real estate (CRE) loans, which have become increasingly problematic as property values decline and interest rates rise. Unlike larger banks that have been offloading high-quality assets to mitigate losses, regional banks are more vulnerable due to their higher concentration of CRE loans and lack of additional down payments from borrowers. According to Murray, the real wave of distress is just beginning, with banks expected to start selling more challenged loans to reduce their troubled loan exposures. This situation is exacerbated by the uncertainty surrounding the Federal Reserve's monetary policy, which has left property owners and lenders in a difficult position.

Broader Market Implications

The potential failure of regional banks has far-reaching implications for the broader financial market. As these banks struggle with distressed CRE loans, the ripple effects could impact various sectors, from real estate to retail. The MSCI Real Assets report highlights that regional banks face an estimated $441 billion wall of maturing property debt this year, further straining their financial stability. Additionally, the lending volumes for major public mortgage REITs have plunged by 70% from 2021 levels, limiting their ability to underwrite new investments. This contraction in lending could stifle economic growth and exacerbate the challenges faced by the commercial real estate sector.

Expert Predictions and Market Sentiment

Market experts are divided on the extent of the impending crisis. Newmark chair Howard Lutnick has predicted that between 500 and 1,000 banks could fail in the near future, with the fallout expected to become evident by 2025 and 2026. Similarly, Michael Comparato of Benefit Street Partners has echoed these concerns, suggesting that many banks are unaware of the full extent of the risks on their balance sheets. However, some analysts believe that larger banks, having curbed their CRE lending post-2008, are better positioned to weather the storm. The contrasting viewpoints highlight the uncertainty and volatility that currently characterize the financial landscape.

Street Views

  • John Murray, PIMCO (Bearish on regional banks):

    "The real wave of distress is just starting."

  • Jerome Powell, Fed Chair (Neutral on the impact of falling office values on regional banks):

    "Falling office values would harm regional banks. The situation is manageable, but also a problem we’ll be working on for years and that more bank failures were coming."

  • Howard Lutnick, Newmark (Bearish on regional banks):

    "You’re going to start seeing that in ’25 and ’26. Every single weekend a regional bank is going to go bye-bye. The banks that default are not the banks you know."

  • Michael Comparato, Benefit Street Partners (Bearish on regional banks):

    "I don’t think most of the banks understand what is on their balance sheets."