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With Covid-19 rattling the world economy and financial markets, global debt issuance hit record highs in the first half of 2020, according to new data from Refinitiv.

The firm reported that global debt activity was up 35% in the first half compared with the same period in 2019, hitting US$5.5 trillion. This represents the strongest first half on record, Refinitiv said. Deal volume also surpassed 13,000 for the first time in history.

The second quarter saw debt issuance jump 52% from the first quarter, setting an all-time high for a three-month period.

There was more U.S. investment-grade corporate debt issued in the first half of 2020 than in all of 2019, Refinitiv said. A total of US$1.2 trillion worth of high-grade corporate debt was issued during the first six months of the year, with April, May and March ranking as the three largest months of all time.

Global high-yield debt issuance was also up by 22% from the first half of 2019 to US$251.4 billion, led by a 61% increase in the U.S.

International bond offerings set a record too, with US$3.1 trillion issued during the first half, up 38% from a year ago.

Green bonds were one segment that saw a dip in activity in the first half, with issuance declining by 17% to US$73.9 billion, according to data from Refinitiv and The Climate Bonds Initiative. But the market revived in the second quarter, as green bond issuance jumped 74% from the first quarter to US$46.6 billion.

JP Morgan led the debt underwriting league tables in the first half, followed by Citi and Bank of America Securities Inc.

RBC Capital Markets was the top-ranked Canadian dealer in 12th place, up from 15th spot last year.

TD Securities Inc. was close behind in 14th place in the global rankings, jumping from 21st place in 2019.