BOCA RATON, FLA. - A crack team of leading ABS research analysts gathered last week at Information Management Network's ABS East conference to discuss the picture in the auto, credit card and student loan sectors. Consistent with the themes that ran throughout the conference, interest rates, employment, fuel prices and home price appreciation were seen as the key drivers of ABS performance.

The panel turned first to the world of auto ABS, where Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. remain the center of attention. As those companies have slid into junk status over the past six months, they are widely expected to issue more ABS and tap less frequently from the unsecured debt markets. David Covey, vice president with Lehman Brothers, noted that in order to keep sales volumes high, there is the potential for Ford and GM, along with other captive auto finance companies, to ease their underwriting standards and offer more extended-term loans.

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