Global commercial real estate sales rose 47 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier to $101 billion and are on track to reach or top $440 billion for the year, according to a report by real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle Inc .

At $49 billion, direct investment in commercial real estate in the Americas, including the United States, Canada and South and Central America, was the highest of any region in the world, according to preliminary figures Jones Lang LaSalle released on Tuesday.

Such direct investment, which can involve out-and-out sales or recapitalizations, was up 46 percent from the first quarter. It was the highest sales total since late 2007, as the lending markets strengthened, supplying the needed debt financing for deals.

The upswing in activity continues, with exceptional gains in North America, which was late to the recovery, driving that region to the top spot in terms of volumes, Arthur de Haast, head of the International Capital Group at Jones Lang LaSalle, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, investment was $34 billion, slightly higher than a year earlier, Jones Lang LaSalle said.

A strong upswing in investment in commercial property in the Nordic countries and Russia was offset by a modest cool-down in the UK. With debt problems looming, investment in southern Europe slowed precipitously, except in Italy, the report said.

Investment in the Middle East was small and little changed.

In the Asia Pacific region, second-quarter investment fell about 30 percent compared with the first, due to the earthquake in Japan, the region's largest commercial property market. Strong growth in Australia and steady levels of activity in China and Hong Kong failed to make up the shortfall.

For the first half, total global direct investment hit $196 billion, nearly two thirds of the $316 billion reached for all of last year.

The volumes are right on track to meet or exceed our expectations when we first looked at it for 2011, Josh Gelormini, vice president of Americas research.

A total of $440 billion would still trail the boom years of 2006 and 2007, when direct real estate investment reached $700 billion and $759 billion respectively.

(Reporting by Ilaina Jonas, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)