With a full quarter yet to go, the municipal bond insurance industry has already surpassed the full-year volume record set in 1991.

The six major insurers, churning through the first three quarters of 1992 at a record-breaking pace, guaranteed 33.1%, or $56.6 billion, of the $171.2 billion in new-issue volume for the period.

For all of 1991, insured volume totaled $51.7 billion, or less than 30% of the $172.6 billion in total volume for the year. During last year's first nine months, insured volume came to $36.8 billion.

Municipal Bond Investors Assurance Corp. continues to lead the pack in year-to-date dollar volume, with 33.4% of the total, but both AMBAC Indemnity Corp. and Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. had bigger third quarters.

MBIA'S total for the first nine months was $18.9 billion, with $4.9 billion of the total handled in the third quarter, according to the company.

"All of the signs indicate that the pipelines are full,' said David H. Elliott, president and chief executive officer of MBIA. "I would not look to see any abatement in overall volume.

Elliott said a yearend total volume of $225 billion looked possible. At the current pace, that would put the industry's insured volume at about $74 billion for the year.

AMBAC was second in the year-to-date volume ranking, with $16.5 billion for a 29.2% market share, the company said. AMBAC topped the list for the third quarter, however, with nearly $6 billion in volume to its credit.

Phillip B. Lassiter, chairman and chief executive officer of AMBAC, said he expects the positive trend to continue "due to more involvement by individual investors. Rounding out the year-to-date rankings were FGIC in third place with $15.9 billion and a 28.2% market share, Financial Security Assurance Corp. in fourth at $3.5 billion and a 6.2% share, and Capital Guaranty Insurance Co. in fifth at $1.3 billion and a 2.3% share.

Sixth-ranked Connie Lee Insurance Co., which focuses almost entirely on the education sector, had $455 million in volume and a 0.8% market share.

After AMBAC, FGIC handled the second highest volume for the third quarter, or $5.5 billion of the total $17.2 billion guaranteed. MBIA'S $4.9 billion for the quarter was good for third place, followed by FSA at $1.2 billion, Capital Guaranty at $192 million, and Connie Lee at $157 million.

Every company's results showed large gains over last year's figures, but FGIC had the biggest jump. The company's year-to-date volume was $6.9 billion higher than the $9.03 billion insured during the same period last year.

MBIA had the second biggest rise, at $5.7 billion. And AMBAC'S volume for the first nine months increased $4.2 billion over 1991 levels, giving the company the third biggest increase over last year's year-to-date levels.

Much of the volume gains have come on the strength of record refundings, sparked by extremely low interest rates.

Refunding for the first nine months jumped to $80.6 billion through September, 144% more than the $33 billion during the same period last year, according to Securities Data Co.

In addition to boosting volume levels for insurers, refundings also increase profits by allowing companies to book unearned premiums. Profits for the first half of 1992 were dramatically higher compared to last year's levels.

Company officials said earnings results for the first three quarters would be released at the end of October.

Although refundings are expected to slow, market sources say growth should continue for the industry as a whole.

"Refundings will undoubtedly slacken, but it should be compensated for by new-money issues," Elliott said, predicting continuous growth in new money issues over at least the next 10 years.

"I don't think the election will really make any difference one way or the other," he added, reasoning that the nation's infrastructure needs will still be there regardless of which candidate wins.

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