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Equity issuance hit record levels in the first quarter amid soaring global initial public offering (IPO) markets and strong secondary activity, according to new data from Refinitiv.

In the first quarter, equity market activity reached US$346.3 billion, which was more than double the total for the same quarter last year.

The volume of activity was also about double from a year ago, up 96% to almost 1,900 offerings.

Excluding SPACs (special purpose acquisition company), global IPO activity came in at US$100.7 billion in the first quarter, which is also a record, Refinitiv said.

Secondary offerings totalled US$178.0 billion in Q1, more than double the level in the same quarter last year, and also a new high for the first quarter.

While equity issuance was setting records, global debt market activity was essentially flat, Refinitiv said.

Debt issuance totalled US$2.5 trillion in the first quarter, in line with the same quarter last year.

High yield debt issuance jumped by 83% compared with the same quarter last year to US$205.1 billion. Investment grade issuance was down about 5% over the same period.

Refinitiv reported that green bond issuance set a new record in Q1, with US$125.5 billion floated during the first quarter, up 258% from the same period last year.

“Bolstered by the emergence of sustainability and social bonds, annual debt issuance from agency, sovereign and supranational issuers totalled US$717.2 billion, up 9% from a year ago,” Refinitiv said.

In the global underwriter rankings, the top five for equity markets remained unchanged with Morgan Stanley leading the way, followed by Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, BofA Securities, and Citi.

RBC Capital Markets was the top-ranked Canadian firm, in 13th place, up from 16th in 2020. Canaccord Genuity Group also broke into the top 20, taking 20th place globally, up from the 36th spot a year ago.

JP Morgan led the global debt league tables in Q1, followed by Citi, BofA , Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. RBC took 12th place and TD Securities ranked 17th.