In a departure from the norm after merger announcements, several rating agencies placed the debt of NBD Bancorp on negative watch and that of First Chicago Corp. on positive watch.

In previous mergers, the ratings of the higher-rated company - most often the acquirer - have been affirmed. But in this case, Standard & Poor's Ratings Group, Moody's Investors Service, Duff & Phelps, and Fitch Investors Service, placed NBD's debt on credit watch with negative implications. "What the rating agencies are signaling is that when a merger of equals of two companies of large size takes place, they are cautious about the ability to realize the opportunities," said Allerton G. Smith, a fixed-income analyst at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp.

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