Research analyst Glenn Costello has left Merrill Lynch to become a co-head of the RMBS group at Fitch Ratings. Costello was hired in July 2000 to cover Merrill's real estate ABS research. He reports to Group Managing Director Gloria Aviotti who oversees the RMBS and CDO groups at the rating agency. He will be heading Fitch's RMBS group with Joanne Sokolowski. Costello replaces Steve Grundleger who will be joining the rating agency's Business Development Group.

Last week, Bear Stearns International Ltd. announced the hiring of five asset-backed professionals. Adam Toft was hired as managing director responsible for originating, structuring and distributing real estate loans through CMBS and loan syndications. Toft, who reports to Head of European Principal & Asset Backed Finance Andrew Clapham, was formerly head of Moody's Investors Service's European, Middle East and Asia CMBS group. Also hired under Clapham's group are former Halifax Bank of Scotland employees Peter McAnally and Marie Fernandez who will handle euro-denominated real estate loans. Michael Dirnegger, formerly from RZB bank, has joined the firm to oversee the origination of real estate loans, residential mortgages and CDOs in Germany. Former Calyon employee, Jesus Rio Cortes, will be part of Richard Downer's residential mortgages team focusing on Spain and Portugal.

American Business Financial Services last week announced the promotion of Milton Riseman to president and chief operating officer. Riseman was previously the chairman of ABFS' consumer mortgage group, a stint that began in June 1999, when he was responsible for the sales, marketing and day-to-day operation of Upland Mortgage.

Fitch Ratings announced changes to its Global CDO Asset Manager Rating program last week. The most significant modification is the consolidation of scored factors into seven categories from nine. The rating agency merged the financial condition factors into the Company and Management Experience category and the Credit Section and Portfolio Management factors into one category. The scorecard is now designed to come up with scores for the following categories: company and management experience; staffing; procedures and controls; portfolio management; CDO administration; technology; and CDO performance. Fitch applied this new scorecard to managers with outstanding CDO asset manager ratings.

The American Securitization Forum last week released its comment letter on the Securities and Exchange Commission's proposed changes to Securities Act of 1933. The SEC's modifications aim to enhance processes for the registration, communication and offering of publicly offered securities. The ASF's letter endorses the SEC's goal of providing timelier and more accurate information to investors. However, George Miller, executive director of the ASF, said that the changes do not recognize the appreciable differences between the ABS and non-ABS markets in approaching certain issues.

Moody's Investor Service's subprime auto loan charge-off market indexes - tracking seasonally adjusted cumulative charge-off rates - remained virtually the same in December 2004, compared to the previous month. The rate of increase for the rating agency's static index - measuring performance after accounting for deal additions and deletions from the index - also stayed within historical norm at 1% to 2%.

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