While "Where is relative value?" may be a relative question, researchers and traders speaking at this fall's conferences did offer some nuggets of insight during panel discussions. "Researchers are always confused by the question of relative value," said Banc One Capital Markets research head Alex Roever. "The type of investor you are - securities lender, insurance company or CDO - will decide your relative value assessments."

Roever, for example, likes 2.5-year, wrapped, non-prime auto loan ABS from AmeriCredit, which he labeled "a good buy" in the 60 basis points over swaps area. Salomon Smith Barney strategist Mary Kane said she liked credit card ABS, which on an OAS basis looks more attractive than home-equity paper. Two-year, triple-A prime auto paper is currently the most expensive versus other aspects of ABS, but has great value as a defensive play, she added.

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