The holiday holding pattern continued in the corporate bond market yesterday.
"It's very, very quiet," one high-grade trader said of secondary trading. "Extremely quiet."
Another trader estimated that volume was roughly 10% of what it would have been for a Tuesday four weeks ago.
"I think most of the accounts are pretty well positioned where they want to be for yearend," he said.
While most corporate bond volume occurs over the counter, officials at the New York Stock Exchange also reported a drop.
Officials there said $23.9 million par value of corporate bonds changed hands yesterday, compared with 1993's average daily volume of $39 million. On Monday, $18.7 million of bonds changed hands, while the Preceding trading day, Dec. 23, saw $19.3 million.
In the primary market, nothing was priced by late yesterday. "You won't see anything till the first week in January," a syndicate official said. "This is your typical quiet period."
Though unable to name specific offerings he expects will kick off the new year, the source cited some "carryover rumors" regarding utility and telephone deals.
"I think you'll see a lot of utilities ... and I think some of the rumors of the telephones could well become reality," the official said,
In high-yield trading yesterday, prices ended a quiet day unchanged.
On the new deal front, the roadshow for Cen Call Communications $200 million offering of senior discount notes is expected to begin Jan. 5, a high-yield source said.
Merrill Lynch & Co. will be sole manager on the offering, which is expected to be priced the week of Jan. 10, he said.
Moody's Investors Service yesterday said it cut Litton Industries long-term and short-term ratings based on "the increased financial risks associated with Litton's spin-off of its commercial operations to its shareholders."
Downgraded were: Litton's senior unsecured debt to Baa3 from Baa2; its subordinated rating to Ba2 from Baa3; its 415 shelf registration to (P) Baa3 from (P) Baa2 and to (P)Ba2 from (P) Baa3; and the company's commercial paper rating to Prime-3 from Prime-2. The actions complete a review Moody's began on June 18.
The credit agency said in a release that "Litton's future revenue growth is now tied principally to the global defense industry, which will continue to be under considerable pressure over the intermediate term."
Consolidation of the defense industry "is expected to continue and result in a polarization with large companies becoming larger through acquisitions and smaller companies becoming smaller through asset sales," Moody's said.
Moody's has placed Reliance Electric Co.'s Baa3 senior debt under review for a possible downgrade.
The rating agency cited concern that "the company's reduced profitability may continue due to weak global economies, and that Reliance's competitive position may be eroding, especially in the electrical drive business." Moody's review will center on management's plan to improve the Cleveland-based company's operating performance, "given its already lean organizational structure."