J.C. Penney Co.'s three-part $1 billion offering helped vault new issues past $2.3 billion yesterday.

The Dallas-based retailer's deal had five-year, 10-year, and 30-year tranches.

"The five-year from what I understand is just going gangbusters," said Robert Hickey, an assistant vice president and portfolio manager at Van Kampen Merritt Inc. in Chicago, yesterday.

While the 30-year portion didn't move quite as fast as the five-year piece, Hickey found it attractive relative to similar debt of other retailers. He did not, however, buy any bonds.

Duncan Muir, a J.C. Penney spokesman, said the company was "very pleased" with the sale. Proceeds will be used for general corporate purposes, Muir said.

The first tranche consisted of $400 million of 5.375% notes due 1998. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.718 to yield 5.44%, or 45 basis points more than comparable Treasuries. The tranche was increased from $250 million.

The second tranche consisted of $325 million of 6.125% notes due 2003. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.3 to yield 6.22% or 57 basis points more than comparable Treasuries. The tranche was increased from $250 million.

The third tranche consisted of $275 million of 7.125% debentures due 2023. The noncallable debentures were priced at 99.812 to yield 7.14%, or 73 basis points more than comparable Treasuries. The tranche was increased from $250 million. Moody's Investors Service rates the offering A2, while Standard & Poor's Corp. rates it A-plus. CS First Boston served as lead manager on the offering, which was said to be a blowout.

James River Corp.'s two-part offering totaling $400 million also faired well yesterday, sources said, though the 10-year piece proved more popular than the 30-year.

"The reception was better in the tens," a source famillar with the offering said. The 10-year piece was increased to $250 million from $200 million, while the 30-year piece was dropped to $150 million from $200 million.

In secondary trading yesterday, spreads on high-grade issues ended unchanged as participants sit tight ahead of yearend. High-yield bonds ended 1/8 to 1/4 higher. While activity was light, what did trade went up, one trader said.

Junk Hits the Road

Calling this a busy road show week is "putting it mildly," according to Fred Cavanaugh, vice president and portfolio manager of John Hancock's $330 million Strategic Income Fund.

"I think we've got a dozen in Boston this week," Cavanaugh said.

Companies that either have done a road trip this week or plan one include: Wheeling-Pittsburgh Corp., Wilrig A.S., Eletson Holdings, Stone Consolidated Corp., Giant Industries, Specialty Equipment Cos., AEC Acquisition Corp., Canadian Helicopter, Great American Cookie Co., Remington Arms and Sola Group.

"I think this is the beginning of the yearend push," Cavanaugh said. He noted that many junk market participants attended a Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. conference in Las Vegas, Nev., last week, which put a lid on activity. Next week is shortened by the Thanksgiving holiday, Cavanaugh said.

Concern over a potential increase in rates is also bringing people to market, Cavanaugh said, adding, however, that "I don't see that happening."

New Issues

James River Corp. issued a two-part offering totaling $400 million. The first tranche consisted of $250 million of 6.70% notes due 2003. The notes were priced at 99.775 to yield 6.731%, or 110 basis points more than comparable Treasuries. The second consisted of $150 million of 73/4% debentures due 2023. The debentures were priced at 99.789 to yield 7.768% or 137.5 basis points more than comparable Treasuries. Salomon Brothers inc. was lead manager.

Johnson & Johnson issued $250 million of 6.73% debentures due 2023 at par. The noncallable debentures were priced to yield 34 basis points more than comparable Treasuries. Moody's and Standard & Poor's rate the offering triple-A. Morgan Stanley & Co. was lead manager.

New York Tele hone issued $200 million of 7% debentures due 2033. Noncallable for 20 years, the debentures were priced at 97.55 to yield 7.187% or 81 basis points more than comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering A2, while Standard & Poor's rates it A. Fitch Investors Service rates the offering A-plus. Kidder, Peabody & Co. won competitive bidding to underwrite the offering.

Federal National Mortgage Association reportedly issued $200 million of 6.17% medium-term notes due 2003 at par. Noncallable for three years, the notes were priced to yield 56 basis points more than comparable Treasuries. Merrill Lynch & Co. managed the offering.

Alabama Power Co. reportedly issued $ 1 00 million of 7.3% first mortgage bonds due 2023. Nonrefundable for fove years, the bonds were priced at 98.76 to yield 7.403% or 102 basis points more than comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering A 1, while Standard & Poor's rates it A. PaineWebber Inc. won competitive bidding to underwrite the offering.

Southern California Gas Co. reportedly issued $ 1 00 million of 53/4% bonds due 2003. The noncallable bonds were priced at 97.658 to yield 6.066%, or 45 basis points more than comparable Treasuries. The first mortgage bonds were sold through a competitive bid won by Merrill Lynch & Co. Moody's rates the offering A2, while Standard & Poor's rates it A-plus.

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