Moody's Investors Service has named Brian Clarkson as its new executive vice president and co-chief operating officer, in charge of global structured finance and global public finance. Also promoted to Co-Chief Operating Officer, working alongside Clarkson, was Chris Mahoney, who had headed the corporate finance, financial institutions and sovereign risk businesses. The two will share management responsibility for Moody's research business. Clarkson joined Moody's in 1991 as a senior analyst and has been running the U.S. structured finance group since mid-2000. Group MDs Andy Silver and Noel Kirnon will jointly run the U.S. structured finance group, while Frederic Drevon, who was promoted to group MD for international structured finance, will also report to Clarkson.

Neil McPherson has been promoted to managing director at Credit Suisse First Boston, where he has run the U.S. ABS research strategy group since early 2000, assuming CDO responsibilities in late 2002. McPherson manages a staff of nine analysts in the New York office. McPherson, who joined the research team in 1998, reports to Global Head of Structured Products Research Gail Lee.

Nomura Securities recently hired Donald MacKinnon as its new head of structured credit trading and asset finance, according to wire reports. In his new position, he will report to executive managing director Najib Canaan. While MacKinnon had most recently been president and CEO of Real Business Solutions, he has also worked at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, where he co-headed the CMBS banking operations.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has raised the loan limits on Federal Housing Administration single-family loans by more than 3% to keep up with the rising price of housing. The new single-family loan limits, which took effect Jan. 1, are $160,176 in low-cost areas and up to $290,319 in high-cost areas. The FHA loan limits for two-, three-, and four-unit loans also increased as part of the annual adjustment process. "These higher loan limits will help the FHA mortgage insurance program keep pace with the robust housing market while contributing to the Bush administration's commitment to create 5.5 million new minority homeowners by the end of the decade," said acting HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson.

A pair of ABS syndicate heads were named managing directors in their respective firms, the companies announced last week. Citigroup Global Markets ABS syndicate head Ish McLaughlin, and Lehman Brothers' longtime syndicate head Kevin White each made MD.

Dallas-based homebuilder Centex Corp. announced last week that its Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Lawrence Hirsch, will retire effective March 31, in order to assume Chairman of the Board responsibilities for Centex Construction Inc., which is scheduled to be spun off Jan. 30 and renamed Eagle Materials Inc. Hirsch has been with Centex since 1985. Succeeding Hirsch will be Timothy Eller, currently the company's president and chief operating officer. Eller joined Centex in 1973 and became its COO in 2002.

XL Capital, the parent of surety provider XLCA, said it would invest an additional $100 million into the financial guaranty business. Proceeds from the cash injection will be used to fund growth at XLCA, the parent said in a release.

A strong housing market in Mexico will fuel growth in the country's bourgeoning structured finance market in 2004, according to a report issued by Standard & Poor's last week. Citing the success of the first-ever Mexican RMBS last year (see ASR 12/15/03), S&P says "This favorable pricing suggests a wider acceptance of, and demand for, structured finance debt by domestic investors," said Juan Pablo de Mollein, an associate director in S&P's Latin America Structured Finance Ratings group in New York.

Wells Fargo has become the first lender to fully integrate its CMBS recording and tracking operations onto the MERS Commercial system, an electric loan registry created by the real estate finance industry to eliminate assignments when trading commercial mortgage loans. It was designed specifically to eliminate the repurchase risk and costs associated with preparing, recording and tracking loan assignments within CMBS transactions.

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