Corporations thundered back from the Labor Day weekend yesterday with about $2.5 billion worth of fresh debt.

"After the employment figure and the attendant rally on Friday, we felt that now was as good a time as any," said Chris Rutkowski, director of corporate finance at General Motors Acceptance Corp., which yesterday priced a $500 million 10-year issue.

Friday's August employment report reveals an 83,000 decline in nonfarm payrolls, not the 175,000 gain economists expected.

"We had been looking at this section of the curve for a while," Mr. Rutkowski said, adding that his company had been watching the intermediate sector for two weeks or so.

According to John Lonski, senior economist at Moody's Investors Service, the recent sharp drop in bond yields should be "very positive as far as new issuance is concerned."

The average yield on intermediate investment-grade corporate bonds Friday fell to its lowest level in the approximately 20 years for which Mr. Lonski has figures. Moody's index shows the average yield for bonds with maturities ranging from one to 10 years at 6.56%, he said. The average yield for 30-year investment-grade corporate bonds fell to 8.21%, its lowest level since the first quarter of 1974, Mr. Lonski said.

GMAC issued $500 million of noncallable 7% notes. They were priced at 98.969 to yield 7.146% or 80 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Lehman Brothers was lead manager. Moody's rates the notes A2, while Standard & Poor's Corp. rates them A-minus.

General Motors Acceptance Corp. will use the proceeds for ongoing business purposes, Mr. Rutkowski said.

In secondary trading, high-grade corporates ended 3/8 point higher, while high-yield bonds remained unchanged in light trading.

The Canadian province of Manitoba issued $300 million of 6.875% debentures due 2002. The noncallable debentures were priced at 99.288 to yield 6.975%, or 64 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering A1, while Standard & Poor's rates it A-plus. Merrill Lynch & Co. lead-managed the offering.

Bank of America Corp. issued $250 million of 7.20% subordinated noted due 2002. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.831 to yield 7.224% or 89 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering A3, while Standard & Poor's rates it A-minus. Goldman, Sachs & Co. lead-managed the offering.

Coca-Cola Enterprises issued $250 million of 8% debentures due 2022. The noncallable debentures were priced at 9.662 to yield 8.030%, or 78 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering A3, while Standard & Poor's rates it. AA-minus. Salomon Brothers Inc. lead-managed the offering.

Michigan Bell issued a two-part offering totaling $250 million. The first tranche consisted of $150 million of 5.875% notes due 1999. The noncallable noted were priced at 99.406 to yield 5.98% or 20 basis points over comparable Treasuries. The second consisted of $100 million of 6.375% notes due 2002. The noncallable notes were priced at 98.73 to yield 6.55% or 22 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering Aa1, while Standard & Poor's rates it AAA. Lehman Brothers sole-managed the offering.

Dow Capital B.V. issued $200 million of 5.750% notes due 1997 at par. The noncallable notes were priced to yield 50 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering A1, while Standard & Poor's rates it A. Goldman Sachs lead-managed the offering.

PaineWebber Group Inc. issued $175 million of 7.75% subordinated notes due 2002. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.496% to yield 7.823%, or 150 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering Baal, while Standard & Poor's rates it BBB. PaineWebber Inc. lead-managed the offering.

Northwest Financial issued a two-part offering totaling $150 million. The first tranche consisted of $75 million of 4.625% senior notes due 1995. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.765% to yield 4.71% or 42 basis points over comparable Treasuries. The second consisted of $75 million of 6.2% senior notes due 1999. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.73 to yield 6.248%, or 47 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering Aa3, while Standard & Poor's rates them A-plus. Merrill Lynch was lead manager.

Fleet Mortgage issued $150 million of 6.5% notes due 1999. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.723 to yield 6.55% or 80 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering A3, while Standard & Poor's rates it A-minus. Merrill Lynch lead-managed the offering.

Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line issued $125 million of 8.875% notes due 2002 at par. The noncallable notes are rated Ba3 by Moody's and BB-minus by Standard & Poor's. First Boston lead-managed the offering.

Bell Telephone Co. of Pennsylvania issued $100 million of 6.625% notes due 2002. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.316 to yield 6.72% or 37.5 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering Aa1, while Standard & Poor's rates it AA. Salomon Brothers sole-managed the offering.

Wachovia Bank issued $50 million of 3.2% bank notes due 1993. The noncallable notes were priced initially at par. Moody's rates the offering Aa2, while Standard & Poor's rates it AA-plus. First Boston Corp. sole-managed the offering.

New Issues

Duff & Phelps Credit Rating Co. cut the ratings of the nation's three largest airlines yesterday, citing "continuing financial difficulties experienced by the U.S. airline industry," the rating agency said in a release yesterday.

The agency lowered the senior debt ratings of American Airlines, the world's largest airline, and its AMR Corp. parent, as well as those of United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, the country's second and third largest carriers.

"We concluded that the quantitative factors of various airlines can no longer support our previous credit ratings," Dudley Heer, group vice president of Duff & Phelps' industrial rating group, was quoted as saying in a release.

Duff & Phelps downgraded the senior debt rating of American Airlines and AMR Corp. to BBB-minus from BBB, and ratings on equipment pass-through certificates and equipment trust certificates financing leveraged lease transactions to A-minus from A.

It lowered United Air Lines senior debt to BB-plus from BBB and United's senior subordinated notes to BB from BBB-minus. Ratings on United's leveraged lease equipment certificates and pass-through certificates were cut to BBB-plus from A.

Duff & Phelps lowered Delta's senior debt to BB-plus from BBB, and the ratings on Delta's equipment pass-through certificates and leveraged lease equipment certificates to BBB-plus from A. Delta's convertible preferred stock is now rated BB-minus, down from BB-plus.

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