European and North American banks continued to strengthen their grip on the letter of credit market in the first nine months of the year, but overall issuance fell dramatically.

Through the end of September, $5.4 billion of issues were sold with letter of credit backing, according to preliminary figures from Securities Data Co., representing a 53.4% drop from $11.6 billion in the first nine months of 1993. Through September, overall tax-exempt volume was off 44%.

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