R.H. Macy & Co. junk bonds posted Yuletide gains of about two points Tuesday, traders said.
The company's 14 1/2s of 98 climbed about two points to finish at 58 1/2, while 14 1/2s of 2001 and zero coupon bonds also gained about two points each.
"People are just fishing," Robert Lupo, head of high-yield research at PaineWebber Inc., said Tuesday. He added that no real market exists on Christmas Eve.
Despite Macy's recently announced $155.4 million first-quarter loss, Mr. Lupo remains positive.
"I still believe it's a good situation, [an] undervalued situation," he said. He added that he suspects the retailer will take advantage of the low levels at which the bonds are trading and repurchase them on the open market.
Over all, the high-yield market was firm and unchanged Tuesday, bolstered by the stock market's recent sharp gains. The high-grade market also finished unchanged in quiet secondary-market trading.
"It's dead. Nothing's going on," one trader said, adding that a 1.2% rise in November durable goods prompted some sell-off during the morning.
"But there really has been no trading at all," he said.
In rating agency actions, Standard & Poor's Corp. affirmed Southern California Edison Co.'s AA senior secured debt, AA-minus senior unsecured debt and preferred stock, and A-1 plus commercial paper ratings, according to an agency release.
Standard & Poor's also affirmed its AA-minus senior unsecured debt rating on SCE Capital Co., a wholly owned subsidiary.
"At this time, the rating outlook is revised to 'stable' from 'negative,' reflecting two positive developments in the regulatory arena and reassessment of the company's purchased-power obligations as having only a marginally adverse financial impact," a Standard & Poor's release said.
An estimated $6.3 billion of debt is outstanding.
Standard & Poor's also affirmed Signet Banking Corp.'s preliminary BB-plus/BB-minus senior/subordinated shelf debt rating and BB-minus subordinated debt rating. It also affirmed the BBB0minus/A-3 ratings on the certificates of deposit and letter of credit-backed issues of units Signet Bank/Virginia and Signet Bank/Maryland.
The agency, however, changed the company's long-term debt outlook to negative from stable. The action affects about $250 million of outstanding long-term debt.
The outlook change reflects the potentially adverse impact on asset quality from the ongoing weakness in the metropolitan Washington real estate markets, the company said.
Signet announced a major restructuring of its troubled real estate portfolio on Dec. 17. Under the plan, half of its $1.7 billion of outstanding loans will the managed for quick disposition.
"There actions by Signet, along with similar moves already taken by several competing banks, would add to the already excess supply of real estate properties in the local markets and put additional downward pressure on prices," the release said.
"To help liquidate its troubled real estate portfolio, Signet has taken significant write-downs and has established large loss reserves. Yet the firm may still be at a competitive disadvantage to other large players with extensive resources and experience in problem-asset disposition."
Fitch Investors Service assigned a AAA rating to Capstead Securities Corp.'s IV's $350 million collateralized mortgage obligations series 1991 VII.
"The rating takes into consideration the high quality of the underlying collateral, the adequate level of credit support, and the dependability of the administrator, Lomas Mortgage USA Inc.," a Fitch release said. "Fitch also believes that cash flow from loans will be sufficient to cover principal and interest on the bonds and that the bondholders are legally insulated from bankruptcy concerns."
Earlier this week, Standard & Poor's affirmed the B-minus ratings on Itel Corp.'s approximately $860 million of subordinated debt and $86 million of convertible exchangeable preferred stock.
Also affirmed were the BB-minus rating on about $145 million of equipment trust certificates and B-plus rating on about $20 million of seniro unsecured debt.
The agency has revised the rating outlook to stable from negative. Itel has taken a number of steps to change its previously "high leveraged, acquisition-minded strategy," the agency said. The company has sold off several assets acquired in the second half of the 1980s and has reduced debt.
"The outlook revision reflects Itel's declining debt load, its recent sale of assets, its ability to sell more assets should the opportunity arise, and its shift away from further acquisitions," Standard & Poor's said.
Also, earlier this week, Duff & Phelps Credit Rating Co. assigned an A rating to Commercial Credit Co.'s $200 million of 6 3/8% senior notes due Jan. 1, 1996, the agency said. Noncallable until maturity, the notes yield 6.44%.
"The rating reflects Commercial Credit's consistently improved operating performance since new management took control in 1986," Duff & Phelps said. "Profitability as measured by return on equity, below average in recent years, was $18.3% in 1990 and 20.4% through the first nine months of 1991. The improvement follows a refocusing of the company on core consumer finance activities."
Moody's Investors Service earlier this week assigned an Aa2 insurance financial strength rating to UNUM Life Insurance Company (First UNUM).
"The rating reflects the financial support and strength of the company's parent, UNUM Corporation and First UNUM'S strategic role and integration within the UNUM organization, as well as First UNUM'S strong capitalization and asset quality," a Moody's release said.