Goldman, Sachs & Co. continued its reign as the dominant municipal underwriter during the first three quarters of 1992, lead-managing almost $7.2 billion of bonds more than its closest competitor, Merrill Lynch & Co.

For the first nine months of the year, Goldman Sachs was senior manager on $22.1 billion of long-term municipal issues, compared with $14.9 billion handled by Merrill Lynch, according to Securities Data Co.

The last time Goldman Sachs did not top the quarterly underwriting tables was in the fourth quarter of 1991, when Merrill Lynch was the leading underwriter of municipal bonds. In that quarter, Merrill Lynch was the senior manager on 99 issues totaling $6.5 billion, and Goldman Sachs came in second with 4.9 billion.

Rounding out the top five senior managers for the first three quarters of 1992 were Lehman Brothers with $13.7 billion to its credit; Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co., at $12.5 billion; and First Boston Corp., which recorded $11.2 billion.

J. P. Morgan Securities Inc., which ranked 11th for the first half of the year, edged into the top 10 in the updated rankings by ousting Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. from the number 10 slot.

The only other shift in the top 10 came at PaineWebber Inc., which moved from seventh for the half to sixth in the year-to-date ranking, changing places with Bear, Stearns & Co.

Merrill Lynch comes out on top of the current list if the rankings are based solely on participation in a syndicate, rather than full credit for the deal going to the lead manager.

On that basis, Merrill Lynch participated in 906 issues, totaling $59.6 billion, compared with second-ranked Goldman Sachs, at 446 issues and $53.7 billion so far this year.

Merrill Lynch also tops the chart when general obligation bonds are segregated from other types of securities. The firm senior-managed GO bond deals totaling $7.2 billion, compared to Goldman Sachs' second-place showing of $7.1 billion in GO sales.

On the revenue bond side, Goldman Sachs was first, with $15 billion, and Smith Barney was second, at $10.1 billion.

The latest rankings come as the market heads for what many analysts predict will be a record year for the industry. New-issue volume for the first three quarters jumped to $170.17 billion, from $119.94 billion in the same period last year. a pace strong enough to break the record $207 billion sold in 1985.

In addition to topping the senior manager chart for the first three quarters, Goldman Sachs also handled the biggest deal of the period, a $1.4 billion California sale in February.

Lehman Brothers handled the second biggest, a $1.2 billion sale in August for New York City.

The largest note issue of the first nine months came to market yesterday, as California priced $5 billion in revenue anticipation notes through Lehman Brothers.

The second largest note deal was also from California, a $3.3 billion

deal underwritten by a Lehman V

Brothers syndicate early last month.

Splitting the rankings between negotiated and competitive deals shakes up the rankings a bit, although Goldman Sachs still tops both lists with $8 billion in negotiated deals and $4.1 billion in competitives.

But Smith Barney moves into second place on the negotiated side, handling $11.5 billion and garnering an 8.6% market share, slightly higher than Merrill Lynch's $11.4 billion and 8.4% share.

For just the July to September period, Goldman Sachs lead-managed $6.8 billion of municipal bonds, ranking first with 12.3% of the market. Merrill Lynch was second for the quarter, with $5 billion and a 9.1% market share.

Securities Data's underwriter rankings are based on long-term issues maturing in 13 months or longer. Private placements, remarketings, and taxable debt issued by private nonprofit organizations are excluded, but municipal forwards are included.

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