Following a string of significant hires and the realignment of several origination efforts, Merrill Lynch could once again be a player in the asset-backed league tables, intentionally or not. The bank, which consistently owned the market throughout the 1990s, literally fell off a cliff in 1999.
First off, Merrill is back in home equity, which represents roughly 40% of the total ABS market. The bull finished 2001 without a dime of credit in real estate ABS, and booked less than $3 billion in 2002. So far this year, the Merrill has brought $7 billion in home equity - $4.1 billion in the last three months alone (though everyone is benefiting from this year's mammoth run in home equity product, up 73% half-over-half, and up 50% annualized). Still, at 4.8%, Merrill's market share of real estate ABS roughly triples its 2002 activity.