On the first day of Christmas the market brought to Europe one Belgium deal, one German true-sale and a whole slate of paper still holding on to the unprecedented year-end tight levels. All jingles aside, investors are gearing up to close books for the year but it shouldn't add too much pressure to issues looking to price before the 2003 window shuts, market sources said.

According to ABN AMRO, the usual year-end widening will be muted this year. "If anything, the available capacity could lead to further tightening if a significant number of transactions slip into 2004," said William Ross at ABN, adding that "We understand a bottleneck at the lawyers is this year's iron lung."

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