An early tip on first-quarter underwriting results: Despite the carnage in global stock markets so far in 2001, the bond underwriting market is having not simply a banner year, but a monumental one. Both the agency and investment-grade corporate bond markets are assured of posting their largest-ever quarterly new issuance volumes when the quarter ends next week, and there are no signs that the pace will lessen.

As of last Wednesday, long-term agency new issuance was a stunning $82.9 billion, up 25% from last quarter and almost $10 billion larger than the market's largest prior quarter on record - the $74.3 billion posted in second-quarter 1999, according to preliminary research by Thomson Financial. Market observers expect the quarter to end with issuance in the $90 billion range.

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