It was a busy beginning to 2005 and a busy end for 2004, with market estimates nearing 210 billion ($276 billion) for total 2004 issuance. As the market rallied to reach critical mass, the story that emerged was an ever-tightening spread environment that took 2004 into the New Year. With evidence that the demand for European paper is still there, issuers are lining up early to debut their 2005 wares.

The typical year-end widening was not to be found in December with deals pricing at the same tight levels seen throughout the year. "For as far back as we can remember, for the first time, pricing of new transactions did not soften at year-end," reported analysts at Merrill Lynch. "If anything, it seems to have moved tighter. We believe that the tightening bias of December will continue in January, when more trading and issuance comes to market."

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