The U.S. ABS primary market slowed considerably last week when held up against the heavy volume witnessed in the preceding weeks. Just over $10 billion was slated to price as of Thursday evening, compared with over $20 billion the week prior. The lull is due in part to anticipation of the upcoming IMN ABS East Conference, which takes place in Boca Raton, Fla., next week, sources said. New-issue volume is expected to swell when the conference concludes.

The secondary market had a particularly active session on Thursday as over $3 billion of short home equity floaters were traded on the day, according to research from Credit Suisse First Boston. Despite the surge in home equity activity, all of the additional supply was absorbed, and spreads held in. Analysts predict that continued selling may pressure credit spreads in the coming weeks.

Real estate ABS accounted for over half of total volume in the primary market with roughly $4.4 billion priced and another $2.4 billion pending for late in the week. Bear Stearns tapped the market for $493.4 million backed by traditional home equity. The offering arrived without a rating from Moody's Investors Service, and came in wide throughout the capital structure. The 2.56-year triple-A rated Class A1 notes priced at 50 basis points over one-month Libor relative to guidance at 40 points over Libor. Meanwhile, the 4.58-year double-A plus notes were also 10 points outside at 80 basis points over one-month Libor versus talk in the 70 basis point area over Libor.

Down in credit, the bonds cheapened further, with the 4.40-year single-A notes coming in at 190 basis points over Libor compared to guidance in the 150 basis point area over Libor.

Late in the week Bear Sterns also priced a $1.4 billion transaction off of its BSABS dealer shelf.

AmeriQuest Mortgage added some bulk to the sector with a $1.7 billion transaction via RBS Greenwich Capital from its Argent Securities program and Merrill Lynch sold a $729 million home equity offering, backed by Option One-originated collateral.

The auto sector was good for just over $2 billion for the week, as nonprime lenders tapped the market. CarMax came with a $550 million fixed-rate senior/subordinated offering backed by retail loans via joint leads Banc of America Securities and Wachovia Securities. The triple-A rated notes with a 1.05-year average life priced with guidance to yield seven basis points over EDSF. There was some widening on the longer-dated notes with the 3.19-year triple-A rated class coming in at 16 basis points over swaps, after marketing the bonds in the 13 basis point area over swaps. Spreads came back in at the bottom of the capital structure, with the 1.74-year single-A and triple-B pricing two and five basis points inside of price guidance, respectively.

Wachovia also shared a lead mandate with Credit Suisse First Boston on a $1.5 billion Capital One Financial subprime auto loan transaction backed by a full MBIA wrap. The 1.9-year notes priced tight at 10 basis points over EDSF compared to guidance at 12 points over EDSF, with the other three classes largely in line with indicative levels.

First Financial Bank hit with its first-ever credit card securitization, a $92.5 million FSA-wrapped offering backed by general purpose cards issued primarily to college students through lead manager SG Corporate & Investment Banking - the second such first-time issuer SG has taken to market this year.

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