As published in Scotsman Guide's Commercial Edition, March 2010.
"Spin" seems like a quaint concept these days.
It's barely even a pejorative term anymore. It's simply the accepted reality behind how many thoughts are now expressed and transmitted.
Take, for example, the recent Public Policy Polling survey stating Fox News is the only broadcast-news network viewers trust — and yes, the trust level varied widely between Republicans and Democrats, who the poll showed favoring NBC. Or recall the dude who used to work in the next cubicle who implausibly has since befriended 479,000 online profiles as a self-professed "Twitter Sherpa."
There's a twist to nearly everyone's game, and it works. Instead of taking things with a grain of salt, we're best advised to buy stock in Morton.
At least that's what went through my head during the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA's) presentation of its fourth-quarter commercial origination report last month. The data didn't surprise: Originations in 2009 were about 17 percent of their level two years ago, and volume for this past quarter showed a slight quarterly increase to somewhere between $23 billion and yuck.
But MBA's commentary during the presentation told a different story. Essentially, its reps said: "Lenders have money to lend. But people aren't borrowing."
Now that's kind of like saying Tesla was forced to stop production of its exclusive $110,000 Roadster sedan because car-buyers were simply too picky to be bothered to buy one. Other forces are at play. As commercial mortgage brokers know — and have read on these pages — moving from "have money" to "lend" hasn't been lenders' easiest move for the past year or so, to say nothing of brokers' or borrowers' ability to sway them.
On the other hand, the MBA did stress that volume data and other indicators are starting to show stability in the market. And considering MBA's primary audience — bankers, hence the name — I think back to a line from Public Policy Polling's press release about its news survey: "[People] now are turning more toward the outlets that tell them what they want to hear."
Perhaps banks want to hear that they're flush. And that market issues have nothing to do with them being frigid, especially when all these borrowers simply aren't borrowing. So perhaps banks' best fix-it is to get folks back into the borrowing business. Maybe dipping into that money to lend, seeing what bones they must throw to these originators and borrowers.
Spin, I thank you.