For the first time in seven quarters the level of outstanding commercial/multifamily mortgage debt grew in the U.S according to information released Thursday by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).  The Association said that total debt rose $3.5 billion or 0.1 percent in the second quarter of 2011 to a total of $2.4 trillion.  The last time total debt increased was in the third quarter of 2009.

Investment in multifamily mortgage debt increased by $3.9 billion or 0.5 percent 0from first quarter 2011 figures to $802.2 billion.   Agency and GSE portfolios and mortgage backed securities (MBS) accounted for $331.8 billion or 41 percent of the debt and banks and thrifts held $215.8 billion or 26.9 percent.  Both sectors increased their holdings; the Agency/GSE/MBA sector by $4 billion (1.3 percent) and banks and thrifts by 1.3 billion (0.6 percent).  Life insurance companies comprised the only other sector where the share of multifamily mortgage debt rose.  The sector took on $0.7 billion or 1.5% more debt, the largest percentage change of any sector.  Agency/GSE/MBAs accounted for 113.5 percent of the net change in debt and banks and thrifts for 34.1 percent

Debt held by CMBS, CDO, and other ABS issues fell by $1.6 billion or -1.6 percent.  This change represented -41 percent of the net change in multifamily debt.   While they hold only a small portion of the overall multifamily debt, nonfinancial corporate businesses divested over half the debt they held in the first quarter of 2011, dropping from $250 million to $103 million, a 58.8 percent change.  Debt held by private pension funds fell 5.3 percent and finance companies by 4.6 percent. 

The quarter-over-quarter change by dollar and (percent change) in other sectors:  state and local governments, $0.24 billion (-0.3); federal government, $0.195 billion (-1.4); non-farm, non-corporate business, $31 million (-0.3) state and local government retirement funds, $5 million (-0.2); and REITs, $4 million (-0.2). 

The largest increase in total mortgage debt, commercial and multifamily, was in the REIT sector where holdings increased by $2.5 billion or 7.7 percent.  Banks and thrifts, the largest holders of debt at 33.5 percent, decreased their holdings by $2.6 billion or -0.3 percent and CMBS, CDO, and other ABS issues which is the second largest sector, fell by $1.4 billion or -0.2 percent.

"For the first time in a year-and-a-half, new commercial and multifamily mortgage originations outpaced the paying off and paying down of existing loans," Jamie Woodwell, MBA's Vice President of Commercial Real Estate Research said.  "Increases in the balance of mortgages held and insured by life insurance companies, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA outpaced declines among banks and thrifts and CMBS issues.

The analysis summarizes the holdings of loans or, if the loans are securitized, the form of the security. For example, many life insurance companies invest both in whole loans for which they hold the mortgage note (and which appear in this data under "life insurance companies") and in commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and other asset backed securities (ABS) for which the security issues and trustees hold the note (and which appear here under CMBS, CDO and other ABS issues).

MBA's analysis is based on data from the Federal Reserve Board's Flow of Funds Account of the United States and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's Quarterly Banking Profile.