Loan delinquencies in the commercial real estate market are running well below levels in the late 1980s, according to data from the American Council of Life Insurers. Specifically, retail delinquencies are 77% lower than they were in March 1988, hitting 0.33% in first quarter 2002. Retail delinquencies hit a high point in third quarter 1992 at almost 8%.

"These data lead us to conclude that the retail sector, despite recent softness, continues to represent healthy investments and should contain an ability to absorb additional operational weakness," wrote Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Lawrence Raiman in a report on the data. "However, we continue to believe that retail REITs could generate less consistent earnings growth and higher volatility in occupancy than other REIT sectors over the long term."

Delinquencies in the commercial real estate market overall are 92% lower than they were in 1988.