Andrew Lo: CMBS Issues Will Hit Pension Funds Hard

by: David Enke

Andrew Lo, the director of the MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering, and founder of the AlphaSimplex hedge fund, believes the next big meltdown will be in commercial mortgages (see Reuters article).

While many traders and investors have been predicting that the CMBS market would be the next one to take a hit after blowups in the residential market, Lo is predicting that the losses will accelerate later this year as rates begin to be reset higher. Also of note is how Lo believes that it will be pension funds, and not the banks, that will be hurt the most when commercial real estate comes under additional pressure. In an effort to increase yield when the markets were more static, pension funds loaded up on CMBS in the years before the market meltdown.

There is an expectation that many pension funds will now have a difficult time meeting liabilities, forcing the government to once again step-in with some type of bailout. While this is certainly not good news for the economy if the commercial real estate market was to play out as predicted by Lo, given the hits commercial real estate has already taken, the pressure pension funds are already under, and the number of bailouts which have already occurred, it is difficult to know - even in general terms - what the reaction and impact on the markets will be. Maybe this is the saddest realization of all.