New issues topped $2 billion yesterday, with American Telephone & Telegraph Co., General Electric Co., and high-yield issuers Ferrell Gas Inc. and Rowan Companies Inc. powering the surge.

Yesterday appears to have been the eighth time this year new issues have hit or bettered the $2 billion mark. Nov. 21 marked the seventh time, according to Joe Miller, an associate at Securities Data Co.

Michael Bassett, a vice president at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates, attributed the bonanza partially to companies' desires to finish deals by year end, but added other factors also could have contributed.

Corporations can easily see that short-end rates are at historically low levels, he said. At the long-end, rates have hovered in the 7 7/8% range for a while, Mr. Bassett added.

"Some people haven't seen enough evidence that will go lower," he said. With November unemployment figures due out today, some issuers many have decided to issue now.

American Telephone & Telegraph issued $676 million of 8.625% debentures due in 2031. Noncallable for 10 years, the debentures were priced at 99.716 to yield 8.65%, or 80 basis points over 30-year Treasuries. Moody's Investors Service rates the offering Aa3, while Standard & Poor's Corp. rates it AA. Morgan Stanley & Co. lead managed the offering.

General Electric issued $500 million of 5.875% notes due in 1994. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.90 to yield 5.913%, or 34 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Both Moody's and Standard & Poor's rate the offering Triple-A. Kidder, Peabody & Co. lead managed the offering.

Ferrell Gas issued $250 million of 11.625% senior subordinated debentures, due in 2003. Noncallable for seven years, the debentures were priced at 98.418 to yield 11.875%. Moody's rate the offering B2, while Standard & Poor's rates it B. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. managed the offering.

Rowan issued $200 million of 11 7.8% senior notes at par. The 10-year notes are noncallable five years. Moody's rates the offering Ba2, while Standard & Poor's rates it BB. Grantchester Securities Inc. lead managed the offering.

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation issued $130 million of 7.6% notes at par. Noncallable for one year, the notes, due in 2001, were priced to yield 40 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Merrill Lynch & Co. lead managed the offering.

Republic New York Corp. issued $100 million of 7.875% subordinated notes due in 2001. The noncallble notes were priced at 99.50 to yield 7.948%, or 76 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the bonds A1, while Standard & Poor's rate them AA-minus. Merrill Lynch lead managed the offering.

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation issued $100 million of 6.5% debentures at par. Noncallable for a year, the debentures, due in 1996, were priced to yield 22 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Lehman Brothers sole managed the offering.

West Penn Power Co. issued $70 million of 7.875% first mortgage bonds, due in 2004. Nonrefundable for 10 years, the bonds were priced at 99.658 to yield 7.917%, or 71 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering Aa3, while Standard & Poor's rates it AA-minus, Goldman, Sachs & Co. lead managed the offering.

Potomac Edison Co. issued $50 million of 8% first mortgage bonds, due in 2006. Nonrefundable for 10 years, the bonds were priced at 99.936 to yield 8.007%, or 80 basis points over 10-year Treasuries. Moody's rates the issue Aa3, while Standard & Poor's rates them AA-minus, Goldman, Sachs lead managed the offering.

High-grades climbed about an 1/8 point in secondary trading yesterday. High-yield bonds lost about 3/4 points in sloppy trading. R.H. Macy & Co. bonds dropped about seven points during the day, but regained about three points later in the session.

Burlington Tender Offer

In other news, Burlington Resources Inc. announced tender offers for El Paso Natural Gas Co. debt yesterday as part of a multi-step restructuring plan culminating with the spinoff of El Paso, one of its two major wholly-owned subsidiaries.

When the restructuring is complete, Burlington and El Paso, a federally regulated interstate gas pipe-line system, will be two separate companies, a Burlington spokesman said. Burlington's other current subsidiary, Meridian Oil Holding Co., which is engaged in oil & natural gas exploration, production, and marketing, will essentially become Burlington, he said.

To accomplish the separation, El Paso will make an initial public offering of up to 20% of its common stock in the form of newly issue shares. Later, a tax-free distribution of the remaining El Paso common stock will be made to Burlington Resources shareholders.

To clear the way for the initial public offering, El Paso is tendering for two debt issues and will redeem a third issue early. Together the three total $550 million. Successful completion of the tenders will remove some restrictions under the terms of their indentures that restrict El Paso's ability to pay dividends and make distributions on its capital stock.

"The transactions are a major step in Burlington Resources's long-term strategy to maximize shareholder value by focusing on its successful core business of oil and natural gas exploration and production," a Burlington release said, "The restructuring will allow the market to recognize more fully the value's of Burlington Resources's separate segments, eliminate regulatory disadvantages to both EPNG and Meridian, and allow greater access to capital markets."

Under the tender offers' terms, El Paso will pay cash for all outstanding 9.45% notes due 1999 for $1,102 per $1000 principal amount plus accrued interest, and all outstanding 8 5/8% debentures due 2012 for $1000 per $1000 principal amount plus accrued interest. Unless extended, the tender offers expire at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Jan. 6, 1992.

The tender offers require a majority of each securities class be tendered to lift the dividend and distribution restrictions. Also, the offer to purchase each series of debt hinges on the consummation of the other offer. El Paso also plans to call all 9 5/8% debentures due 2011 in January 1992. Burlington will provide funds to purchase the three debt issues. El Paso then plans to issue $600 million of new debt in January to repay Burlington. Dealer manager for the tender offers is Morgan Stanley & Co.

In yesterday's rating actions, Duff & Phelps Inc. has placed IBM's AA-plus rating on Duff & Phelps Rating Watch with negative implications. The agency downgraded IBM from AAA last April, a Duff & Phelps release said.

"The potential for downgrading stems from IBM's continued weak operating performance and aggressive expansion of customer financing," the release said, "Although a rating conclusion could be made at any time, Duff & Phelps plans to monitor the proposed corrective actions to be taken by the company over the next few quarters.

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