The U.S. ABS primary market slowed to roughly half of the previous week, pricing $8.8 billion of new-issue supply. With scant auto loan and credit card ABS making the rounds, the focus returned to the mortgage sectors of the market, which accounted for $6.5 billion of the week's total.

That is not to say there weren't interesting offerings last week, as a new name emerged, plus the week saw the largest 12b-1 fee ABS to date. Trinity Industries successfully priced its first-ever railcar lease ABS to strong demand, while Citibank N.A. was shopping a $638 million Hedged Mutual Fund Fee Trust deal, the third of the year from Citibank. And an issuer, for the first time, hired a credit oversight agent to police its transaction.

Trinity's single-tranche fixed-rate 2003-1 deal, with an 11-year average life, priced to yield 80 basis points over swaps, or 5.704%. Sources credited the full Ambac wrap for the offering's success. Credit Suisse First Boston acted as sole lead manager for the transaction (see related story p. 7).

Citibank's Hedged Mutual Fund Fee Trust was in the market with $638 million of 12b-1 fee-backed notes via Citigroup Global Markets. This is more than triple the size that HMFFT has brought in the past, as prior transactions have tallied no larger than $175 million. As of press time, HMFFT 2003-3 had yet to price.

Just one auto loan deal hit last week, as the market digested the greater than $7 billion of supply the prior week. The lone issuer in the sector was Hyundai Motor Credit, led jointly by Banc One Capital Markets and Citigroup. Hyundai's first term offering of the year was snapped up by investors, going subject across all classes before price guidance was disseminated. When the dust settled, spreads had tightened two to five basis points from indicative levels, although HART 2003-A offered value versus the recent HAROT and VALET offerings.

MBNA America Bank was the only name heard in the credit card sector last week, with a $500 million senior fixed-rate 2003-A10 deal via CSFB and Merrill Lynch. The five-year transaction also was snapped up quickly by investors, pricing at eight basis points over swaps, or 3.718%, one basis point inside of guidance.

The week in home equities began with a HELOC offering from Wachovia Bank. Wachovia Asset Securities Trust 2003-HE3, with a three-year average life and a full MBIA wrap, priced at 25 basis points over one-month Libor, via Wachovia Securities.

AmeriQuest Mortgage's retail origination Argent Trust priced its seventh ABS of the year, after having been introduced in August. Led by CSFB, the $1.5 billion floating-rate deal saw a slight restructuring of its senior tranches prior to pricing.

Aames Mortgage brought its first deal of the year, a $504 million floating-rate deal via Lehman Brothers, which featured the first visible appearance of "deal cop" Murrayhill Co. as Credit Risk Manager in the traditional ABS market (See ASR 10/20/03, p. 10).

Despite Murrayhill's involvement, Aames 2003-1 bonds widened on the negative sentiment of the financially troubled issuer parent. For example 5.5-year triple-A rated 1A2 notes widened to 55 basis points over one-month Libor, versus guidance in the 40 basis point area over Libor. Murrayhill's fees, meanwhile, were not disclosed and it was unclear - as one ABS East opening panelist notably suggested - if Murrayhill had legal enforcement rights "just short of the right to pistol-whip an issuer's CFO."

Of course, the market had its share of dealer shelf transactions, including $2 billion from Lehman's SAIL shelf, $560 million from Deutsche Bank's ACE Trust and $421 million from Bank of America's ABFC shelf.

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