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Commercial real estate prices near recession low in July: Moody's

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Commercial real estate prices dropped another 3.1% in July, the second-straight month of declines and only 0.9% above the recession low in October 2009, according to the credit rating agency Moody's Investment Services. Currently, prices are 43.2% below the peak in October 2007. Over the past year, commercial real estate prices have fallen 7.3%. According to Trepp, an analystics firm, commercial real estate problems are the culprit behind the most recent bank failures. Nick Levidy, managing director at Moody's said he expects price volatility to continue for some time. "Commercial real estate markets were caught in a downdraft as the economy appeared to further weaken in the early part of 2010, resulting in relatively large declines in the index in the early summer," Levidy said. "The recent performance, while perhaps somewhat discouraging, should not come as a complete surprise. We have noted for several months that markets are likely to remain choppy for some time as property values slowly form a bottom in conjunction with a gradual recovery of the broader economy." In the East, prices did increase in three of the four property categories: office, retail and apartments over the past year. But prices fell 7.6% in industrial properties. Retail prices in the South declined 31.5%, contrasting to the 12.9% gain in the East. Apartment prices in the South also fell 1.4% over the last year and 44.2% in the previous year. Apartment prices in the South peaked three years ago and declined 48% since. The exception is in Florida, where apartment prices increased 10.8% over the last year, its first positive return since its peak four years ago. Values, however, are still down 44.4% from that peak. Write to Jon Prior.

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