Sunday, September 30, 2007

First In-Depth Assessment of Commercial Real Estate Job

Results from the first SelectLeaders Job Barometer report, compiled by SelectLeaders, an online job board for the commercial real estate industry, in conjunction with Cornell University's Program in Real Estate, forecast solid hiring and compensation growth, but also reveal worrisome trends.The findings were reported by Anthony J. LoPinto, CEO of Equinox Partners, a retained executive search firm, and founder of SelectLeaders, and Dr. David Funk, director of the Cornell University Program in Real Estate.

"Hiring and compensation provide a barometer for trends in the commercial real estate industry, as well as for the U.S. economic outlook," Mr. LoPinto says.Among the notable findings of the SelectLeaders Job Barometer are: -- Job postings for the commercial real estate industry have soared by 35 percent during the first quarter of 2007. -- 66 percent of senior executives expect compensation to increase in the next six months, and over 60 percent of industry employers expect to increase hiring over the same period. -- The Southeast region, led by the Atlanta and Charlotte markets, had the fastest job growth of any region, experiencing a 60 percent increase in job postings in the first quarter, and, surprisingly, the Midwest region, led by the Chicago market, experienced a 43 percent increase in job postings, making it second in job growth nationally.

-- New York and California are the hottest areas for real estate finance jobs, but New York attracts twice as many applicants as California, which has led to a talent shortage on the West Coast.

-- Despite the fact that demand is growing for asset and property managers, the majority of job candidates seek the highly desirable"deal-making" positions that involve acquisitions, development, capital raising and investment banking."Candidates should pay close attention to regional and sector opportunities," advises Dr. Funk. "If the candidates are willing to pursue prospects in other states and sectors, they will broaden their options as well as their resumes, and with multi-sector jobs accounting for 46 percent of all postings nationwide, cross-sector experience makes a candidate extremely appealing."According to Mr. LoPinto, there are several reasons why the industry is currently experiencing a shortage of talent. "One of the major reasons is 'The Brain Drain,' or lack of up-and-coming talent caused by few entering the real estate industry during the bust of the '90's, coupled with the baby boomers exiting the business and heading to the beach. Also, there has been an enormous influx of capital into real estate, fueling tremendous growth, and a corresponding demand for talent."Dr. Funk adds, "With more companies going public, and greater institutionalization in the industry, the bar has been raised on the caliber and qualifications for real estate job candidates.""Notwithstanding the residential sector's less optimistic viewpoint, which the study concludes is sector-specific, the industry is quite optimistic," observes Mr. LoPinto."The question remains as to whether the hiring and compensation bubble will get so big that it will burst, or if the current optimism is indicative of a lot more runway in the current economy," notes Dr. Funk.About The SelectLeaders Job BarometerThe SelectLeaders Job Barometer utilized data collected from three sources: a comprehensive sample from 8 primary job boards of all online job postings for professional commercial real estate positions, surveys among senior C-Suite and middle management in commercial real estate companies, and 74,853 resumes from job applicants submitted on the SelectLeaders site, as well as the SelectLeaders Job Network, comprising 11 real estate professional organization career centers.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

25 or 50?

Financial markets are counting on Bernanke to use his creativity and guile to chart a course for the central bank that will reassure markets pleading for a rate cut without spooking investors that a recession is at hand.

'While the arguments favoring a bold move are compelling, we believe the chances of a 25 basis point cut carry a higher probability.'

The Fed is expected to ease policy but also take further action to signal the availability of liquidity to markets through a further reduction in its discount rate.

"These decisions are far from open-and-shut, in the minds of either the FOMC or market participants," said Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs.
The meeting is the most important one that Bernanke has chaired since he took office nearly 20 months ago, Hatzius said.

Most economists think the central bank will cut by a quarter-percentage point to 5.0%, but some are attracted to the somewhat strong move of a half-percentage point.
"While the arguments favoring a bold move are compelling, we believe the chances of a 25 basis point cut carry a higher probability," said Michael Moran, chief economist at Daiwa Securities America Inc., in a note to clients.

Moran gives three reasons for a smaller move. First is concern about the appearance of the Fed being too quick to protect lenders and investors; second are doubts that the economy will weaken sharply and last is nervousness about inflation.

The August unemployment report was the only really weak economic indicator to date.
"There is no evidence that the wheels are coming off the wagon of growth so the Fed will probably only cut rates by 25 basis points," said Robert Brusca, chief economist at FAO Economics.

Bernanke told the financial markets in a speech that the Fed would pay close attention to the "timeliest" economic indicators and anecdotal reports to gauge the turmoil in credit markets on the economy.

Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, said another argument against a half-point rate cut is the fact that the recent financial turmoil does not include stocks.
After all the volatility in the markets the last month, the Dow Jones Industrial Average last Friday was still up 7.9% year-to-date.

Rupkey said a 50 basis point cut might also set off expectations that the Fed will move by a half-point at the next FOMC meeting on Oct. 30-31.

But several economists are leaning in the direction of a half-point rate cut on Tuesday.
"The case can easily be made that a 50 basis point cut would be well justified," said Avery Shenfeld, senior economist at CIBC World Markets.

"The 25-basis point move will still leave most money market rates above where they were prior to August, including the 3-month LIBOR rate off of which most floating rates are set. It is going to take at least 50 basis points to stop the bleeding there, and likely something like 100 basis points to actually provide a more stimulative environment than existed in credit markets prior to August," Shenfeld said.

Hatzius of Goldman Sachs also thinks the Fed will cut the funds rate target by a half a percentage point.

The odd man out is Scott Anderson, senior economist at Wells Fargo Economics.
Anderson argues that the Fed should not lower the Fed funds rate, but said they will just for the "psychological effects it could have on financial markets."

"A Fed Funds cut will not bring back the U.S. housing market. A Fed Funds cut will not bring back the commercial paper market," Anderson said.

If the housing market remains depressed, the markets "will ask for another rate cut, and another, and another, and another...and then what?" he asked.

"However, our confidence in this call versus smaller moves is low," he said.
Stephen Gallagher, economist at Societe Generale, said it would be foolish to be overly confident in forecasting any particular outcome.

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Barclays Says Solent Commercial Paper to Be Repaid

Barclays Plc, the U.K.'s third- biggest bank, says investors who bought commercial paper from Solent Capital Partners LLP's $4.5 billion Mainsail II Ltd. fund would be repaid in full under a restructuring proposal.

Mainsail is being forced to sell assets, including residential and commercial mortgage securities, because they aren't worth enough to support its debt. Barclays had committed to provide emergency financing to the fund run by hedge-fund manager Solent, according to a March report by Moody's Investors Service. Barclays and Solent are both based in London.

``The restructuring proposes that all commercial paper investors will be fully paid out at par at the same time when the restructuring is implemented through the provision of an additional liquidity facility underwritten by Barclays,'' according to a Mainsail statement released on the London Stock Exchange's news service today.

Companies that depend on commercial paper, which is debt due in 270 days or less, face funding shortages as investors refuse to buy paper that may be linked to U.S. subprime mortgages. Barclays said Aug. 31 that it provided a loan to a fund run by London-based Cairn Capital after the fund couldn't refinance commercial paper. Moody's said the bank also may provide emergency lending to a fund run by Geneva-based Avendis Group, which has been forced to sell assets because of a drop in value.

Barclays has proposed restructuring Mainsail's debt by creating an emergency-funding facility divided into three levels of risk, and it's in discussions to buy ``additional credit protection,'' the statement said. Barclays is talking to Mainsail's capital and mezzanine noteholders about having them buy the riskiest pieces, the statement said.

Standard & Poor's last month cut ratings on junior interests in Mainsail as much as 16 steps to CCC+ from the highest grade. The commercial paper's rating dropped three steps to A-3, the lowest short-term investment grade ranking.

Will Bowen, a spokesman for London-based Barclays, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
- Bloomberg

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