High-yield private placements plummeted 75% in the first half of this year, to $1.6 billion from $6.3 billion in the same period last year, while placements overall fell less severely, according to Securities Data Co.

"The insurance companies have a lot of problems buying [high-yield private placements]," a source at Kidder, Peabody & Co. said yesterday in explaining the sharp decline. Kidder captured first place among high-yield agents in the first half of this year, followed by PaineWebber Inc. and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp.

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