My jaw dropped when I read this Financial Times report on the commercial real estate markets in Spain and Italy:
The Spanish and Italian commercial property markets have all but collapsed with the number of transactions in both countries falling more than 90 per cent in the three months to July as investors worry about the future of the eurozone.
Only three property transactions were registered in Spain during the second quarter, down from 58 deals in the previous quarter. In Italy the slide was even more pronounced, with just two buildings being traded during the period, down from 56, according to data from Real Capital Analytics.
The severity of the decline highlights investors' concerns about the risk of owning fixed assets in the two countries given the uncertain direction of the eurozone economy.,
The total value of transactions for offices, shops and industrial property in Spain was €67m for the second quarter, down 74 per cent from €260m in the first quarter. The inactivity meant Spanish property transactions were below those of neighbouring Portugal for the first time.
"Heightened risk aversion, particularly among cross-border institutional investors, has led to an almost complete collapse in southern European acquisitions," said Joseph Kelly, director of market analysis at RCA.
In Italy, a few property sectors, such as the Milan retail space market, had held up well during the downturn. However, growing concern over the country's economy and its future position in the eurozone appear to have snuffed out investor confidence across the market.
I've been following this slow motion collapse in the euro zone for more than 2 years and thought I was immune to shock. Those numbers shocked me. A great big economy like Spain and they managed only 3 commercial property transactions for the whole quarter? Talk of a bailout has quieted some since the loans to Spanish banks have shored up that sector of the economy - at least temporarily. But with those kinds of numbers, the crisis can come roaring back at any time.