Investors Pile into Risky Commercial Real Estate Debt, Even as Fed Warns of Trouble

“Bondholders need to make yield,” says real estate owner 

Quote by Carl Chang  |  MarketWatch

February 26, 2021


It takes a fortune to shape a city’s skyline.

But it also frequently takes borrowed money from Wall Street, the kind of debt that can be tied to a lone billion-dollar skyscraper, or a couple dozen buildings, that ends up spun into bonds and sold to investors looking for a return.

One of Wall Street’s hottest “reopening” trades has been playing out in the $600 billion commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market, through bets on risky slices of property debt that could end up with big losses, or rewards, if hotels fill back up with business travelers, workers return to the office and shoppers wander back to shops as the COVID-19 threat subsides.

High-yield is trading near 4% and CMBS has followed suit,” said Daniel McNamara, principal at a MP Securitized Credit Partners, a hedge fund that’s been in the spotlight for its success shorting debt tied to struggling malls.

Not to mention, much of that quest for yield has been stretched out during an unprecedented span in which interest rates have been pinned at historic lows.

While McNamara’s team still has its wagers against shopping centers, it also “goes long” selectively in commercial mortgage bonds, mostly by owning lower-rated bonds that come with higher potential returns — and risks.

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