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LOS ANGELES-CB Richard Ellis has named Ray Torto, principal and chief strategist at Boston-based CB Richard Ellis Torto Wheaton, to the newly created position of global chief economist for the international commercial real estate services firm. Torto tells GlobeSt.com that the new position, for which CBRE has been planning for more than a year, reflects growing client demand in an increasingly international industry.

“The client demand for global advice in a seamless way from a single point is what’s driving this,” Torto says. “Clients, meaning both investors and occupiers, are thinking of global strategies so they want a global view.” In his new post, Torto will direct CBRE’s worldwide team of commercial real estate market analysts and will serve as the firm’s primary spokesperson on macro economic issues and the global commercial real estate market.

The new position with CB Richard Ellis, which will mean changes at Torto Wheaton Research, is the culmination of more than a year of work that Torto and CBRE executives have invested in getting the platform up and running for the new post. Torto explains that he and others involved in research at CBRE produced a plan that was submitted to Brett White, CBRE’s CEO, and the global executive board in October of 2006. Since then, “We have been working on this with the regional heads of research around the globe,” Torto notes.

Torto founded Torto Wheaton Research with Bill Wheaton in 1982, and the firm has been a subsidiary of CBRE for the past 20 years. As a result of his new position, Jim Costello and Jon Southard will assume responsibility for the day-to-day direction at TWR. Wheaton will remain head of research and will continue to be engaged in client service and business relations.

Torto’s appointment to the new post comes at a time when, coincidentally, questions about the state of the US economy invariably lead to questions about the effect of the slowing economy on commercial real estate and how both will be affected by the Federal Reserve’s latest rate cut of three-quarters of a percentage point. Torto on Wednesday reiterated his recent comment to GlobeSt.com that the economy will not slip into a recession.

One of the reasons for thinking that the economy won’t slip into a recession is that, “We expected the Fed to be aggressive on fighting to prevent a recession,” Torto tells GlobeSt.com. “What’s more important than what the latest rate cut might do for commercial real estate is what it will do for the economy,” he adds.

Torto strongly supports the Fed’s rate cut, which he sees not as a panic reaction but as “a very strong advocacy for the economy.” The rate cut was called for because, “If the financial system cannot do its job of providing credit, then all facets of the economy are affected adversely,” he adds.

Torto draws a distinction between commercial real estate investing and the ups and downs of the stock market in recent days. “What we have seen in the stock market in the past few days has nothing to do with investing, but it has everything to do with trading,” he says. “There is a big difference in real estate because it’s a long-term investment.”

In his new role at CBRE, Torto will work with CBRE’s 480-plus research professionals in the Americas, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and Asia Pacific regions to provide clients with local, regional and global commercial real estate market intelligence and analysis. He will also serve as a strategic adviser to CBRE’s global executive board on economic matters. He will report to Michael Strong, President of CB Richard Ellis, EMEA, and a member of the global executive board.

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