Fitch Inc. said Monday that its February commercial mortgage-backed securities loan delinquency index rose 13 basis points from January, to 1.28%, because retail performance declined for the sixth time in the last seven months.

"As expected, a prolonged decline in consumer spending has forced weaker retailers out of the market, in turn placing significant stress on commercial real-estate fundamentals," said Susan Merrick, the head of Fitch's U.S. commercial mortgage-backed securities group.

The ratings agency expects the index to reach 3% by yearend.

Many vacant big-box spaces will remain empty "for the foreseeable future," Fitch said, and in the near and medium term the retail industry will make up a growing proportion of defaults.

Multifamily properties continue to lead the decline, with $2.4 billion of loans delinquent, followed by retail, with $1.7 million delinquent.

Fitch's index includes 1,164 delinquent loans with a combined value of $6.2 billion.

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