Carolco Pictures Inc. bonds' mysterious 18-point drive left high-yield traders looking for clues to its cause.

"Carolco's all over the place," one said. The 14s of 1993 lost between 15 to 18 points yesterday from the previous day's close, traders said.

One trader said the bonds were selling at 58 cents on the dollar at about 3:00 yesterday, down from 73 cents at the previous day's close.

The bonds on Nov. 8 registered a high, trading at 99, according to a trader.

"I don't know what the story is, I've been trying to find out," another trader added.

Some traders speculated that hard times in general for the industry, evidenced by Orion Pictures Corp.'s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing yesterday, could have contributed to the drop.

At least one trader said continued fallout from suspended merger talks with LIVE entertainment Inc. may have contributed to the drop. A company spokeswoman said talks were suspended Dec. 3.

Last month Carolco reported stiff third-quarter losses. The company already owns 53% of LIVE Entertainment, which recently sold off Lieberman Enterprises Inc. The sale failed to meet expectations, contributing to Carolco's third-quarter losses, a company spokesman said earlier.

Asked about yesterday's bond plunge, the company spokeswoman said Carolco never comments on market activity.

In secondary trading overall, high-yield bonds were flat to up 1/4 point.

As for new issues, News America Holdings Inc. could trundle $300 million of debt into the high-yield market as early as tomorrow.

Next week's calendar may include Owens-Illinois Inc.'s much touted $1 billion offering, a $150 million offering by Playtex Family Products and U.S. Can Co.'s $100 million deal.

A roadshow is also underway for Magma Copper Co.'s $175 million deal.

Tomorrow, News America is expected to price its $300 million 10-year offering, market sources said. Price talk on its is 11 1/2% to 11 3/4%, they said.

Morgan, Stanley & Co., Citicorp Securities Inc., and Allen & Co. are managing the offering. Moody's Investors Service rates the senior notes B1, while Standard & Poor's rates them BB-minus.

U.S. Can's deal consists of $100 million o f10-year notes. The company is currently awaiting word from the Securities and Exchange Commission, but could possibly price the deal next week, a spokeswoman said.

Earlier this month, Standard & Poor's Corp. assigned a B-minus rating to the senior subordinated notes. The implied senior debt rating is single-B-plus.

"The ratings reflect the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company's heavy debt burden and thin fixed-charge coverages, offset, in part, by leading market positions in its relatively stable steel container businesses," a Standard & Poor's release says.

U.S. Can stems from a 1983 leveraged buyout of Sherwin-Williams's container division. Later acquisitions, including Southern Can Co. in 1985 and Continental Can Co.'s general packaging business in 1987, have established U.S. Can as the leading domestic manufacturer of steel containers used in nonfood "general packaging," according to the release.

"The proposed offering of senior subordinated notes will increase the company's already heavy debt burden. However, the maturity profile of its debt and debt-like preferred stock will improve, as will financial flexibility," Standard & Poor's said.

Playtex Family Products could bring its $150 million senior note deal due 1997 next week, according to Hercules P. Sotos, vice chairman at the company.

"We are waiting for comments from the SEC so we do not have a [definite] time," he said. Proceeds from the offering will be used to pay down bank debt. Price talk on the deal has not been finalized, he said.

The roadshow is currently underway for Magma Copper Co.'s $175 million 10-year senior subordinated offering, according to Kim Wick, a treasury analyst at the company. No price talk on the deal was available. Proceeds from the offering will be used to repay existing debt. Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Jefferies & Co. are underwriting the deal. It has not been decided when the deal will be priced.

High-grade bonds were roughly unchanged. Among yesterday's high-grade issuers was PNC Funding, which offered $100 million of 6% notes due 1994. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.50 to yield 6.185%, or 80 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering A2, while Standard & Poor's rates it A. Salomon Brothers was lead manager n the offering.

MBNA issued $100 million of 6.25% deposit notes due 1994. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.875 to yield 6.296%, or 90 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering A3, while Standard & Poor's rates it BBB-plus. Lehman Brothers lead managed the offering.

Cincinnati Gas & Electric issued $100 million of 8.950% first mortgage bonds due 201. Noncallable for five years, the bonds were priced at 99.482 to yield 9%, or 119.4 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering Baal,, while Standard & Poor's rates it BBB-plus. Morgan Stanley lead managed the offering.

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