Merrill Lynch leads the race among CDO underwriters through the first quarter, with nearly $6 billion of product placed, according to data maintained by Thomson Financial. Merrill's hold in the sectors is one of the more dominating in a market where underwriting is generally considered a commoditized product, as it controls 22.4% of the supply.

Merrill has already booked more than one-third of the business it did all last year, when it was the market leader with $15 billion in league table credit. Additionally, its 1Q05 volume is nearly double its underwriting volume over the same period a year ago, during which it led $3.5 billion - also tops in the market, with a comparable market share.

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