Low interest rates will endure in 2020 in the face of economic slowdown

US-EU trade tension remains the main risk for Europe, with any escalation likely to lead to fall in the demand for European exports. Labour markets will remain robust, however, and acceleration of wage growth in several countries will continue to provide support to consumer demand within Europe, CBRE says. Trade tensions and Brexit-related uncertainties are expected to continue in 2020, impacting Euro area GDP growth, which is expected to remain modestly positive at 1% per annum through 2020 and 2021.

Pierre-Edouard Boudot, Senior Director – Research and Prospective, at CBRE explains:

“Central banks have reverted to a more accommodative approach, including the ECB resumption of Quantitative Easing, reinforcing CBRE’s forecast of lower interest rates for longer. This scenario will support a real estate premium over government bonds. Lower yields may also mean that investors reduce their return requirements, and/or take on greater risk. In the context of strong liquidity maintained by central banks, investors are increasingly favouring real estate in their multi-asset allocations, attracted by the yield in comparison to other asset classes and the safe haven offered in the face of monetary erosion.”

Office leasing was down in 2019 compared with 2018, reflecting slower economic growth and office-based employment in the major western European economies. This pattern looks set to continue with a similar decline forecast for 2020, with expected supply shortages in some markets contributing to this outcome. Currently tight supply conditions will ease as new developments are set to rise above the levels seen over the past two years.

The performance of the retail and logistics sectors in 2020 will be driven by economic fundamentals and the growth of ecommerce across Europe. The retail outlook in continental Europe is more positive than in the UK, driven by lower levels of online shopping, stronger expectations of economic growth, absence or lower levels of property taxes and different lease structures. Retail yields are expected to either stay flat, or rise slightly, in most European cities. Steady, but slowing, economic growth across continental Europe will benefit the logistics sector, along with the structural shift towards internet retailing. Logistics yields are expected to stay broadly flat in most major European markets.

The evolving Multifamily sector has positive prospects for growth and continued investment in 2020. This is being driven by a shift in the number of people opting to rent rather than buy residential property in many countries and the growing pool of domestic and international capital looking to invest in this asset class. Regulation remains a concern within the sector, with measures such as regional rent controls, as governments seek to address affordability issues, being a key risk to potential investors.

European hotels outperformed the other key regions in 2019, both in terms of hotel operating performance and occupancy, with growth in demand expected to persist in 2020. As a result, institutional investors will increasingly consider operational hotel investments. In 2020, it is expected that institutional capital will account for over 30% of the European hotel deal volume.

Operational real estate, such as healthcare and retirement living, is no longer viewed as a niche area for opportunistic investors. Investors increasingly have more advanced sector knowledge and operational real estate will remain central to many investment strategies in 2020 among both existing and new investors. Harmonisation in pricing across different markets, and the emergence of new partnership models, will be key features of this market.

Data centre development in Europe is expected to accelerate in 2020, driven by a combination of privately-owned pan-European operators, and large US REITs. Constraints on the availability of land and power in key hubs are a challenge, however, and are leading to an increase in the price of land for provisional data centre sites, as well as to growing interest in new locations beyond the established core. User demand in 2020 will be driven by the major, largely US-based, cloud service providers.

Richard Holberton, EMEA Head of Occupier Research, at CBRE, explains:

“Against the backdrop of US-EU trade tensions and some political uncertainty in the UK and Italy, economic growth, while slowing, is set to remain positive. The low interest environment, supported by central bank policies, is set to continue through 2020. This will support the attractiveness of real estate yields compared to other asset classes, bringing fresh opportunities for the sector to attract institutional investors across Europe. Regulatory and social pressures surrounding sustainability will be a growing influence on occupier decisions and increasingly have knock-on effects on funds and property managers.”

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