The U.S. commercial real estate industry’s ability to get credit and, therefore, fortunes have strong ties to the 4,648 insured banks (according to the FDIC) in the country that provide about 38.6% of CRE loans.
Anything that negatively affects the stability and credit ratings of the banks is an issue for the CRE industry. Despite multiple federal officials and regulators repeatedly saying that the entire banking system is sound, Moody’s recently cut ratings on a number of smaller and regional banks and put some larger ones on notice that they might face potential actions.
Now Fitch Ratings analyst Chris Wolfe warned in a CNBC interview that the current financial state of banks couldn’t be taken for granted. It is possibly that a slight change in conditions for the industry, with an overall rating drop like the one Fitch instituted in June, could force a reconsideration and credit downgrade of some major banks, including JPMorgan and Bank of America, because an individual bank can’t have a credit rating higher than the industry as a whole.
In June, Fitch downgraded banks’ “operating industry” score from AA to AA- “because of pressure on the country’s credit rating, regulatory gaps exposed by the March regional bank failures and uncertainty around interest rates,” as CNBC wrote.
A second downgrade would leave the industry at A+. Currently, JPMorgan and Bank of America, among some other of the largest banks, have an AA- rating from Fitch.
JPMorgan said that it did not have a comment in reply to a GlobeSt.com request. Bank of America also said it wouldn’t comment, but did send a copy of Moody’s May 3, 2023, upgrade of the “long-term debt and deposit ratings, counterparty risk ratings and counterparty risk assessments of Bank of America Corporation” and its rated subsidiaries and the baseline assessment of its principal bank subsidiary, Bank of America, N.A.
However, in today’s quickly changing economic environment, the date of that upgrade is close to four months old. Downgrades would have serious implications for banks and for CRE lending. With a lower rating, banks have higher credit costs and more concerned investors and depositors. That could drive banks to polish up their balance sheets even more, which in turn could mean reductions in CRE lending and selling off of existing loans, which would drive down their value and that of existing loans, undermining valuations going forward.