The commercial real estate market is in serious jeopardy, coinciding with a banking crisis that is particularly threatening to small and local banks. The sell-off in regional bank stocks is expected to worsen in light of New York Community Bancorp’s credit rating plummeting. To complicate matters further, the lifeline provided during last year’s banking crisis—the Fed’s Bank Term Funding Program—will expire on March 11, 2024. 

The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank last year threw the U.S. into a frenzy. A recession following the COVID-19 pandemic seemed inevitable, but a banking crisis combined with a depressed real estate market would leave the country in complete disarray. The Bank Term Funding Program was established in direct response to the demise of Silicon Valley Bank, providing low-interest loans to distressed lenders to avoid the collapse of other regional banks. The hope was that lenders would be able to get back on their feet and the public’s faith in the country’s banking system would be restored.

Nearly one year later, plunging bank stocks are sending a very different message. In the example of New York Community Bancorp, the bank experienced significant losses on commercial real estate loans in the past year, which has caused its share prices to decline nearly two-thirds in value within the past week alone. N.Y.C.B. purchased assets tied to Signature Bank last year when it collapsed shortly after Silicon Valley Bank. The acquisition caused N.Y.C.B. assets to soar to over $100 billion, which in turn caused a spike in share prices. However, their recent numbers show a steep decline in earnings this year, particularly from loans on an office complex and co-op residential building. The losses from those two loans total over $185 million.

Other banks are experiencing similar downturns in earnings from commercial real estate loans, although many are not quite as extreme. Lingering work practices from the Coronavirus pandemic are largely to blame. With more and more companies shifting to a remote work model, office buildings have been left vacant and underused. The depressed commercial real estate market has impacted several small banks around the country, and investors are feeling increasingly worried about the future of these institutions. The KWB Nasdaq Regional Banking Index, a collection of midsized bank stocks, fell nearly 12% in the past week, showcasing the fear permeating the market.

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The current climate coincides with the end of the Bank Term Funding Program, which will cease to offer low-interest payments on March 11. Officials have largely downplayed fears of a larger crisis, but whether that reflects their true feelings or is simply to mitigate the public’s reaction is unclear. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, “I believe it’s manageable, although there may be some institutions that are quite stressed by this problem,” when speaking to the House Financial Services Committee earlier this week.

U.S. banks are not the only ones feeling the pressure. Japan’s Aozora Bank and Swiss bank Julius Baer’s stocks have also plummeted over the past month after they revealed losses from commercial real estate loans. The global market is reportedly concerned about bad loans continuing to impact banks around the world.