Even If the Fed Cuts, the Days of Ultralow Rates Are Over

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Greg Friedman
Managing Principal & CEO
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"Extend and Pretend"—Just as Hamlet famously questioned, "To be or not to be," we are also on the brink of a crucial revelation. Are we facing a seismic shift with sustained higher interest rates, a largely overlooked issue? How will this shift affect commercial real estate and other asset classes in both the short and long term? Are the public and private sectors ready for what appears to be the inevitable? Today, we face more questions than answers, and indecision is no longer viable in a higher interest rate environment.

Unlike in the past few downturns, such as COVID, the Global Financial Crisis and the dotcom bust, the Fed significantly reduced interest rates, enabling owners of commercial real estate and lenders to easily engage in "Extend and Pretend," even when cash flows were negative or razor-thin, thanks to the exceptionally low interest costs.

Today, we are in a commercial real estate recession showing no signs of abating. The economy boasts considerable strength, driven by a strong job market, and record liquidity is on the sidelines. I do not see the necessary catalysts to revert interest rates to levels seen in previous cycles. Therefore, I don't see “Extend and Pretend” to be an effective strategy and would prepare for more bankruptcies, foreclosures and forced sales as reality sets in that we are in a new rate paradigm or maybe just a return to normalcy that, unfortunately, will be destructive to values, especially to the lower cap rate assets. Ultimately, amidst any market disruption, there will be pivotal opportunities for those with the decisiveness and the liquidity to seize them at the right moment.

This commentary originally appeared on Greg Friedman's LinkedIn page on May 1, 2024, in response to a Wall Street Journal article titled: Even If the Fed Cuts, the Days of ultralow Rates are Over.

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This commentary originally appeared on Greg Friedman's LinkedIn page on May 15, 2024, in response to a Bloomberg article by Alexandre Tanzi titled: "Seriously Underwater' Home Mortgages Tick Up Across the US.

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Peachtree CEO Greg Friedman comments on a recent article by Richard Berger for Globestreet. The article is a response to the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates steady.

The CPI report earlier this week showed a decrease in U.S. inflation pressures for the first time this year, following a higher-than-anticipated PPI. This might suggest the Fed's sustained efforts to mitigate consumer price pressures are beginning to show results. However, we are still far from reaching 2%, but maybe the Fed is seeing that inflation is finally on a downward trajectory. In my opinion, the Fed will need further data to gather the confidence required for contemplating interest rate cuts.

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Property owners face refinancing at significantly higher rates as debt matures, leading to increased debt service costs and reduced profitability. This strain on cash flows, coupled with higher expenses and lower income, creates a vicious cycle. Property valuations decline as borrowing costs rise, and investors demand higher returns, softening the market. This downward spiral tightens financial constraints, risking defaults and market instability, a situation that requires immediate attention.

Can the Fed get us out of this spiral before a larger meltdown without triggering new economic challenges?

The path forward will likely require a mix of monetary policy adjustments based on economic data and perhaps more targeted fiscal interventions to support vulnerable sectors.

No matter where the market leads, I'm enthusiastic about the opportunities that lie ahead, and our team is fully prepared to tackle the challenges.

This commentary originally appeared on Greg Friedman's LinkedIn page on May 19, 2024, in response to a Globestreet article titled: Watch for These Signs of Recession as the Fed Keeps Rates Elevated.

Follow Greg Friedman and Peachtree Group on LinkedIn