I t was the best of times, it was the worst of times....

Unlike the last two January's new issuance is hitting the primary market at a moderate pace this year, pricing just over $10 billion in the first two weeks of the New Year, versus $17.5 billion in the first two full weeks of 2002. Similarly, however, many of the same names - including Citibank, Discover Card, Ford Motor Credit, and, GMAC and mortgage unit GMAC-RFC - have already priced deals in the New Year.

As top-tier issuers have unfettered access to the market, it has taken extra work to complete deals for off-the-run names and sectors. Thus far in the year, not one deal has priced from an issuer that is not considered a leader in its sector, although a first-time equipment finance company was set to price before trading closed for the week.

For the second straight week, the market was dominated by a large Big- Three auto loan securitization; this time it was ford that offered a $3 billion deal via three lead managers. Like GMAC CARAT the week previous, Ford offered both fixed- and floating-rate classes, pricing in line to slightly inside GMAC 2003-1.

In credit cards, both Citibank and MBNA Bank America, via Lehman Brothers tapped the market late in the week, joining Discover Card, which priced its first trade of the year the Friday before. While these were the first offerings for Discover and MBNA, Citi has already priced two credit card deals, totaling $2.5 billion. Credit card supply totals $4.2 billion to date.

In mortgage-related ABS, the trend of collateral acquired in the whole loan market, something Banc One Capital Markets researcher Gary Mitchell dubs "repacks" has been slower to develop, he adds. But a pair of deals from GMAC-RFC priced last week, as did an AmeriQuest Mortgage offering.

Morgan Stanley Capital Corp., which was one of the leaders of the whole-loan acquisition surge, brought its first ABS of the year last week. Total home equity supply this year stands at $5.24 billion.

As mentioned in last week's market wrap, Canadian equipment lender/lessor Alter Moneta Receivables was marketing its inaugural $232 million securitization through RBC Dain Rauscher and featuring an XLCA wrap. Although pricing had not occurred as of press time, it was expected to do so last week. The Rule 144A offering, with a 1.3-year average live, was making the rounds at 57 basis points over EDSF.

The Global MBS market has jumped to life early in the year, with MacQuarie Bank and Northern Rock each currently marketing transactions. Northern Rock, through its Granite Mortgages trust, is shopping $4.5 billion (equivalent) of U.K. mortgage product via Merrill Lynch and Salomon Smith Barney as joint leads, while MacQuarie's Puma trust has a $1 billion dollar-denominated Australian MBS through Deutsche Bank Securities. Each is expected to launch and price this week.

Northern Rock's Granite offering consists of eleven floating-rate tranches, denominated in U.S. dollars, Euros and British pounds. MacQuarie's Puma, on the other hand is a single tranche offering, offered in U.S. dollars, with a 3.32-year average life that launched at 22 to 24 basis points over three-month Libor, out from initial guidance in the 20-22 area over Libor.

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