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Amid a plunge in equity underwriting and a decline in merger activity, global investment banking fees dropped in the first half, according to new data from Refinitiv.

Total investment banking fees in the first half came in at an estimated US$48.7 billion, which is down by 13% from the same period a year ago. This amounted to the weakest first half since 2016, the firm noted.

The overall decline in fees came thanks to a 25% drop in equity underwriting fees, a 14% dip in M&A advisory fees and a 19% reduction in syndicated lending fees.

Only debt underwriting fees increased, ticking up by 3% compared with last year, driven by a strong increase in high yield issuance.

Refinitiv reported that JP Morgan ranked as the top investment bank by estimated fee revenue, with US$3.3 billion in estimated fees generated in the first half.

Goldman Sachs was second, with an estimated US$3.0 billion. BofA Merrill Lynch and Citi moved up one spot each, to third and fourth place, respectively, while Morgan Stanley fell two positions to fifth.

RBC Capital Markets is the top ranked Canadian firm, sitting in 12th place globally. TD Securities came 21st and BMO Capital Markets took 22nd spot.

The financial sector was the biggest source of banking fees in the first half, accounting for 29% of the total fee pool. The energy and power sector ranked second, followed by the industrials and tech sectors.