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While debt issuance ticked up, Canadian equity markets were painfully slow in the first half, according to new data from Refinitiv.

Equity issuance came in at just $5.5 billion on 97 deals in the first six months of 2023, down 23% from the same period last year and marking the weakest first half since 1995.

Secondary offerings were down 9% year over year, but the initial public offering (IPO) market completely dried up, with proceeds down 86%.

Preferred securities issuance was down 68% from last year, and retail structured products issuance was down 86%, Refinitiv reported.

On the bright side, the second quarter was notably stronger than the first three months of the year, Refinitiv noted, with Q2 accounting for $3.3 billion of total proceeds.

The materials sector represented the largest share of first half issuance (33%), followed by energy and power (30%) and industrials (11%).

The weak first half saw Goldman Sachs top the industry league tables for overall equity issuance, up from fifth spot in the rankings last year. Goldman also ranked first in secondary offerings and common stock deals, Refinitiv noted.

In the overall equity rankings, RBC Capital Markets ranked second, followed by Scotiabank and BMO Capital Markets, with Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. rounding out the top five.

Canaccord led in IPOs, while Scotia ranked first in preferred securities and CIBC World Markets and RBC led the retail structured products market.

Offsetting some of the weakness in equity markets, debt market issuance was up 5% in the first half to $111.4 billion. Here, too, the second quarter was stronger than the first, with proceeds up 18%.

Government debt represented 55% of the new issue activity, followed by the financial sector at 27%, and the energy and power sector (10%).

RBC led the overall debt underwriting league tables for the first half, with last year’s leader, National Bank Financial Inc., falling to fifth place. TD Securities ranked second, Scotia placed third and CIBC was fourth overall.