Out of the far turn and into the home stretch, it seems as though JPMorgan Securities is leading the underwriter rankings for the U.S. ABS market, according to preliminary data from Thomson Financial. With just over $33 billion of public and 144A (excluding CDOs) JPMorgan is roughly $1 billion ahead of second-place Salomon Smith Barney, which had sold $32 billion of ABS through the middle of last week.

Close behind Salomon is Credit Suisse First Boston, with $31 billion of ABS supply placed with investors. Banc Of America Securities, which has sold $30 billion, is in fourth place. Then there is a $4 billion drop-off to fifth place Deutsche Bank Securities, with $26 billion of ABS sold in the first nine months of the year.

The proliferation of joint lead managed roles - with as many as three banks splitting the book on the larger transactions seen this year - has kept the top five spots on the league tables close, sources noted. "As conditions in the capital markets deteriorate, issuers tap the expertise of the (banks) that have been committed to the market throughout the year," said CSFB ABS co-head Joe Donovan.

In the battle of brokerages, sixth-place Lehman Brothers holds a lead over seventh place Morgan Stanley, with $21 billion and $18 billion sold, respectively. Mortgage specialist Countrywide Securities has moved into the eighth spot, bolstered by numerous large self-led transactions of late, having sold over $14 billion.

Also moving up with increased activity over recent weeks are Banc One Capital Markets, with $12 billion of ABS sold and Merrill Lynch & Co., which has sold $11 billion.

Other significant movements include Bear Stearns & Co., which slipped to eleventh with $10.6 billion placed, after placing seventh in 1Q02 and ninth following the 2Q02. Goldman Sachs & Co., in the ninth spot following the 1Q02, slipped down to the thirteenth spot, with just over $8 billion.

Unlike the first half of the year, supply in the third quarter was dominated by home-equity transactions backed by collateral acquired in the whole-loan market and then repackaged onto underwriter's issuance vehicles. This trend, according to Donovan, is due to the refinance boom that has continued unabated throughout the year. "If loans are originated, they are bound to be securitized," he said.

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