Banks are being rocked again as real estate losses mount

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Nearly a year on from a banking crisis that led to the collapse of three US regional lenders and the emergency takeover of Credit Suisse in Europe, a fresh chill is running through banks as far apart as New York, Tokyo and Zurich.

Common to all of them — mounting losses on lending to the troubled commercial property sector.

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On Wednesday, shares in New York Community Bancorp (NYCB) plunged 38% after it reported a loss of $252 million for the last quarter. The regional lender set aside $552 million in the fourth quarter to absorb loan losses, up from $62 million in the previous quarter. The increase was driven partly by expected losses on a loan used to finance an office building, it said.

The lender helped drag the KBW Regional Banking Index down 6% on Wednesday, its biggest daily fall since last May — the same month California-based First Republic became the third US banking casualty last year.

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