Global debt issuance slumped in the first quarter of 2022, according to new data from Refinitiv.

Total issuance activity declined by 7% from last year’s first quarter to US$2.5 trillion, and the volume of deals was down by 6%.

The decline in overall issuance came as high-yield debt offerings plunged to a six-year low. Global issuance of high-yield debt was down by 72% in the first quarter to US$59.0 billion — its slowest start to year since 2016.

Refinitiv also reported that green bond issuance was down by 11% in the first quarter, sovereign debt activity declined by 3%, and international bond offerings were down by 24%. Offerings of emerging market debt dropped by 38% too.

Amid these widespread declines, investment grade corporate debt was the outlier, as issuance in this segment rose by 3% in the first quarter to US$1.3 trillion — representing the strongest start to the year on record.

Despite these conflicting trends, the top five firms in the underwriter league tables remained unchanged, with JP Morgan holding onto first place, followed by Citi, BofA Securities, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Two Canadian firms — RBC Capital Markets and TD Securities Inc. — were ranked in the top 25, although RBC slipped to 17th place from 12th place last year, and TD came in at 20th, down from 17th in 2021.