Commercial mortgage delinquencies continued to rise in November, as would be expected. The highest-rated CMBS are right now paying about a massive 12 percentage points more than Treasuries, compared with with just 0.82 in January:

Commercial mortgage delinquencies rose in November and will climb as the economy slows and unemployment grows, according to Barclays Plc.

Payments more than 60 days late on commercial real estate loans that were bundled together and sold as bonds increased to 0.69 percent last month, compared with 0.57 percent in October and 0.51 percent in September, Barclays data show.

The “relative spike” in delinquent loans marks the “beginning of a sustained, upward trend,” Barclays analysts led by Aaron Bryson in New York said in a report yesterday. “We have repeatedly stressed that CMBS delinquencies are a lagging indicator of performance and tend to lag changes in employment by close to a year.”

Waning demand for the bonds, which are backed by pools of commercial mortgages, caused sales to slump to $12.2 billion this year, compared with a record $237 billion in 2007, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. estimates.

Delinquent Retailers

Retailers are leading the rise in commercial mortgage delinquencies, according to Barclays. Late payments on retail space rose to 0.58 percent in November, compared with 0.43 percent in October, the data show.

 “The depth and length of this economic downturn looks to be materially worse than many investors initially expected and worse than that experienced during the last recession,” the analysts wrote in a Nov. 26 report.

Looser Underwriting

Underwriting standards on commercial real estate mortgages taken out between 2005 and 2007 were looser than those on loans in prior years, which will contribute to more delinquencies, the JPMorgan analysts said.

The impending default of two commercial mortgages sent spreads soaring to record highs last month. A $209 million loan to finance the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, and the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa in South Carolina, is near default after cancellations sapped revenue. In southern California, the owner of the Promenade Shops at Dos Lagos missed two payments on a $125 million loan.

The loans were among the largest in a $1.16 billion commercial mortgage debt offering sold by JPMorgan on April 30, Bloomberg data show.

Another hedge fund has frozen redemptions:

Fortress Investment Group LLC fell 25 percent to a record low after the private-equity and hedge-fund manager halted redemptions from its Drawbridge Global Macro fund, which had lost value this year.

Investors asked to withdraw $3.51 billion by year-end, including the $1.5 billion in redemption notices disclosed last month, the New York-based company said today in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Fortress spokeswoman Lilly Donohue declined to comment.

“The market essentially lost faith in Fortress as a franchise so that anything Fortress does is tainted by problems that it had in its private-equity portfolio,” said Jackson Turner, an analyst with Argus Research Co. in New York, who has a “sell” rating on the company.

More than 80 firms have liquidated funds, restricted redemptions or segregated assets following a stock-market decline and a credit freeze that started with a housing slump and rising defaults on U.S. subprime mortgages. Hedge funds have posted losses averaging 23 percent this year through Dec. 1, according to Chicago-based Hedge Fund Research Inc.’s HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index.

Fortress said in November its hedge-fund clients asked to pull more than $4.5 billion, or 25 percent of their money, as the company reported its first quarterly loss since going public. The Drawbridge fund had $8 billion as of Sept. 30, and the requested withdrawals amount to about 44 percent of the money pool, said Roger Smith, an analyst with Fox-Pitt Kelton Cochran Caronia Waller USA LLC in New York. Drawbridge lost 12 percent this year, he said.

The hedge-fund industry may shrink as much as 45 percent by the end of this month to $1.1 trillion from its peak of $1.9 trillion in June because of investor redemptions and market losses, Morgan Stanley analyst Huw van Steenis said in a Nov. 24 report.

Yields on speculative-grade bonds imply a default rate of 21 percent, which is higher than the record of the Great Depression. Moody’s forecasts the U.S. default rate to rise to 3.3 percent in October, to 4.9 percent in December 2008 and to 11.2 percent by November 2009. In other words, the US economy will face a period of consolidation and reorganisation, and the US economy of tomorrow will probably depend on exports and manufacturing to a far greater degree than the economy today does. In essence, we’re witnessing that much feared, and discussed, seldom understood unwinding of global imbalances: China is forced to shrink its export sector, as the US is forced to restrain its domestic spending habits. While in sum this is a healing process, the surgery is rather painful because the patient was a bit too late in seeking help for its illnesses:

The extra yield investors demand to own U.S. high-yield bonds was 19.19 percentage points on Dec. 1, according to Moody’s. Assuming a 20 percent recovery rate, the spread implies a default rate of 20.9 percent, John Lonski, chief economist at Moody’s Investors Service, said yesterday in a market commentary. That compares with a rate of 11 percent in January 2001, 12.1 percent in June 1991 and 15.4 percent in 1933.

Defaults and bankruptcies are accelerating as financing options for high-yield companies dwindle amid the longest U.S. economic recession in at least 26 years. The U.S. default rate rose to 3.3 percent in October, according to Moody’s, which forecasts the rate to increase to 4.9 percent in December and 11.2 percent by November 2009.

“The default rate is going to start rising quickly, soon enough it’s going to be breaking above 10 percent,” Lonski said in an interview. “Lack of access to financial capital is a very big problem for high-yield bonds.”

Hawaiian Telcom Communications Inc., a provider of local and long-distance telephone service, and Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., the largest U.S. chicken producer, sought bankruptcy protection on Dec. 1, as they struggled with too much debt taken on before the credit crisis.

Trump Entertainment

Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., the casino company founded by Donald Trump, had its ratings cut by Moody’s on Dec. 1 after announcing last week it would forgo a $53 million interest payment to conserve cash. Moody’s lowered its probability of default rating to Ca from Caa2 and its rating on the company’s senior secured notes due 2015 to Ca from Caa2, with a negative outlook, suggesting the company is more likely to default.

Three companies have sold $2.7 billion of high-yield bonds this quarter, compared with $30 billion in the same period a year ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Leveraged loans arranged this year total $301 billion, down more than a third from last year, Bloomberg data show.

“There’s a lot of forced selling of high-yield bonds by hedge funds owing to the need to de-lever as well as by mutual funds in response to redemptions,” Lonski said. “You’re looking at a market where the sellers well outnumber the buyers and the reluctance on the part of buyers makes sense if only because a bottom for economic activity is not yet in sight.”

High-yield, high-risk bonds are rated below Baa3 by Moody’s and BBB- by Standard & Poor’s.

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