Before Hurricane Floyd closed down Wall Street with near-empty threats, last week marked a significant increase in asset backed securities action, with volume seemingly through the roof at $7 billion by press time, compared with $2.8 billion the week prior. But many players remained wary of market conditions.

"It's coming at us kind of confused," said one trader.

"It seems like everybody's out of the water and moving into the water at the same time," said Dan Nigro of Chase Asset Management. At week's end, he said, "Everybody was looking at everyone else to see when to jump in. I see this week as everybody moving into the water."

As for the sharks, Ford Motor Credit Co. set the benchmark for automotive asset backed securities, coming with a $3.2 billion deal backed by prime auto-backed bonds. The deal was structured in seven parts, with five senior, plus a B tranche and a C tranche. The largest tranche, the one-year, nearly $1.4 billion class A-3, priced at 27 points over one-month Libor. The longest average life was just under three years. Goldman, Sachs and Co. was lead manager, with Salomon Smith Barney, Banc One Capital Markets, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch & Co. as co-managers.

MBNA America Bank came to market with a $1 billion in credit card-backed deal that priced five basis points narrower than original price talk. The deal, also managed by Goldman, was structured in two parts. Lehman, Merrill and Salomon were co-managers.

"The fact that the transaction has increased in size (20%) to the billion-dollar level says a lot about the transaction," said Vernon Wright, vice chairman at MBNA.

GE Capital also priced during the storm of issuance, issuing a $420 million deal backed by home-equity loans.

"We're just trying to finish up the deal as soon as possible," a trader involved in the deal said on Thursday, shortly before the market closed because of the threat of Hurricane Floyd.

Meanwhile, an mortgage securitization from Australia's Saint George's Bank was making the rounds last week during a roadshow to investors. Credit Suisse First Boston is lead manager.

The deal has loan-to-value ratio of less than 70%, making it attractive to U.S. investors. Indexed to three-month Libor, the deal was pre-marketed in three classes, with price talk of around 20 basis points over for the $300 million A-1 class; the low 30s for the $569 million class A-2 and in the 40s for the $125 million A-3 tranche.

"The overwhelming majority of their collateral is floating," explained a trader. "But it has it the opportunity to be fixed."

At press time, Copelco Capital Inc., which had been poised to price an issue since the week before, was set to come to market with a $540 million equipment-backed deal. Copelco reportedly held back on Thursday because the market closed early. Also, New Century Financial Corp. was preparing a $420 million home-equity deal, as was AFC, which was preparing a $515 million HEL offering.

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