Ahead of the semi-annual conference season, the U.S. ABS market built to a hectic pace, pricing $8.3 billion as of press time - and $4.2 billion on Thursday alone. But with the pending market void that comes with the back-to-back conferences in February and October, there was still $3.1 billion on the table to price either late last week or early this week, before issuers, investors and underwriters collectively leave town.

The highlights of last week were three notable firsts, as frequent issuers Capital One Financial and Mitsubishi Motor Credit each tapped new trusts and Citigroup Inc. unit CitiFinancial Credit Co. brought its first-ever home equity ABS.

Additionally, Marshall & Islsly Bank sold $525 million of prime auto collateral through Banc One Capital Markets, a deal that was initially scheduled for early in the third quarter, but was delayed for undisclosed reasons. In credit cards, both Bank One N.A. and Chase Manhattan Bank placed three-year floaters. Chase sold a total of $1.1 billion via JPMorgan Securities in a deal that was increased from $1 billion and Bank One sold $500 million total of single-A and triple-B rated subs via Banc One.

Early in the week, AmeriQuest Mortgage sold $1.38 billion total of home-equity notes, $1.36 billion of which backed by Freddie Macs FSPC T-49 guaranty, with the remainder in triple-B rated AMSI 2002-C subs. Banc of America Securities and Salomon Smith Barney jointly led the deal.

As anticipated, Cap One priced the first of what is sure to be plenty of supply from its new Capital One Multi Asset Execution Trust, dubbed "COMET" by the issuer. After telling the market at the February IMN/Fabozzi ABS West and taking close to a month from roadshow through pricing, Cap One took full advantage of the extended marketing period, pricing $1.5 billion mixed between three- and five-year triple-A, single-A and triple-B rated paper.

Whereas Cap One used to price one-to-two outside of monoline rival MBNA Bank America, since the late August MOU with regulators and subsequent reporting of FICO distributions, it was almost entirely uncertain what levels Cap One could clear. To insure efficient pricing, Cap One tapped eight co-managers, in addition to lead manager Salomon.

Final pricing spreads confirmed the wariness of investors, as triple-A-rated five-year floating-rate supply priced at 27 basis points over one-month Libor. By contrast, earlier this month MBNA sold five-year senior floaters at 15 basis points over one-month Libor.

Mitsubishi brought its first-ever lease-backed ABS, a $790 million offering via Merrill Lynch & Co. Just the second auto lease ABS this year, the structure was typically shorter in tenor than a loan deal and was offered in the private Rule 144A market.

CitiFinancial Credit came out mid-week with $618 million of home-equity loan ABS via fellow Citigroup unit Salomon, its first visible security of any kind. As a consumer lender, CitiFinancial makes credit card and credit-related insurance products, in addition to home-equity loans.

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