Susan Knapp has been promoted to team manager for Latin America at Moody's Investors Service. Moving into a more business-oriented role from her prior tenure as senior credit officer of Latin American structured finance, Knapp will be responsible for strengthening the agency's position throughout the emerging region. Country officers Daniel Rua in Buenos Aires, Benito Solis in Mexico City and Luiz Tess in Sao Paulo will report directly to Knapp, who is fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese. She will also manage the relationship with Humphreys, Moody's affiliate in Chile. The new team manager of the region will report to Andrew Kimball, senior managing director for various regions. The prior head of Latin America, David Moniz, has been bumped up to managing director of Europe, Middle East and Asia and will be working out of London. No word yet on whether Moody's will fill the holes in the Latin America team left by the promotion of Knapp and the departure of analyst Tiziana DiTullio in late June.

Richard Gambel joins Fitch Ratings to head its London-based credit derivatives team. Gambel joins the team from the Bank of Montreal where he worked on the management of structured investment vehicles. And, in house, Fitch promoted its current head of derivatives, Huxley Sommerville, to lead Fitch's CMBS and RMBS securities team. Sommerville will oversee the agency's whole-business securitization activities as well.

Samir Bhatt recently initiated the coverage of distressed ABS for the research strategy group at Credit Suisse First Boston. Bhatt, a vice president who has been with CSFB since 1999, will maintain his contributions to the consumer asset research effort, including auto loan and credit card ABS as well as aircraft lease/EETCs. Bhatt will continue reporting to director and research head Neil McPherson.

After a three-month absence, Barclays Capital research strategist Juliet Jones returned to the office last week from maternity leave, following the birth of an 8.5-pound boy named Jesse, her first. Jones returns to cover consumer assets, auto loans and credit cards, and also is contributing to the monthly BUCCI.

Standard & Poors added its response to the proposed merger of the Dutch airline KLM and Air France and of Swiss International Air (SWISS) and British Airways. S&P said that the credit quality of European airport operators with a high exposure to these airlines is unlikely to be affected in the short to medium term. These airlines have routes operated out of the London City Airport, with SWISS and BA counted among the top five carriers in 2003. Moody's Investors Service downgraded the London City Airport transaction, City Aviation Finance Ltd, by one notch to Baa3' in March, and S&P placed its rating BBB' on negative outlook in April. Fitch Ratings affirmed its BBB+' rating in August.

Wachovia Corporate Trust recently unveiled its Wachovia Auction Direct platform, allowing for full-service auction agent capabilities for issuers and broker-dealers via an online bidding platform. The new service is aimed primarily at increasing the efficiency of the auction-rate market, which remarkets monthly. Auction Direct also offers auction calendars, daily summaries, CUSIP summaries and real-time auction results.

Sallie Mae announced last week that its preferred-channel student loan origination increased 24% to $5.1 billion from the quarter a year ago. "We continue to put assets on our books at a faster rate than we expected," said Albert L. Lord, vice chairman and chief executive officer. Additionally, the company continues moving away from its former government-sponsored entity status, and at quarter's end, more than 70 percent of managed student loans were funded through non-GSE sources.

Banc of America Securities daily research report ABS FirstLook is now being produced out of BofA's New York office. The daily, which runs three to five pages, is put out by head of ABS research Kumar Aiyer and associate director Todd Leih. Michael Johnson, who had been based out of the Charlotte office, is no longer with the firm.

The National Association of Home Builders' Housing Market Index (HMI) jumped four points to 72 in October from 68 in September. This month's reading was the highest on the HMI since December 1999. The NAHB said that the rise in HMI was due to lower mortgage rates in the first part of the month while other observers said it was because builders are feeling better about the improving economy. The average reading on the HMI so far this year is 62.5, up from 60.8 in 2002.

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