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Global investment banking fees hit record levels amid a surge in issuance activity in the first half of 2020, according to data from Refinitiv.

Total fees rose by 10% in the first half to an estimated US$58.4 billion, the firm said, noting that this represents the strongest start on record.

A surge in both equity and debt issuance drove the increase in banking revenues, Refinitiv said, with debt underwriting fees jumping 31% to top the US$20 billion mark for the first time ever.

Equity underwriting didn’t quite hit all-time records, but fees rose 38% from the same period last year to their strongest showing in five years.

The increase in issuance activity came in the wake of an unprecedented economic disruption, which sparked a push for firms to seek financing as revenues dropped off.

The surge in underwriting activity was somewhat offset by a decline in M&A fees and a drop in syndicated lending.

Refinitiv reported that M&A advisory fees fell by 15% from a year ago to US$13.3 billion, and syndicated lending was down 21% to US$10.3 billion.

The global financial sector accounted for over a quarter of the fees generated in the first half — US$15.5 billion worth — followed by the industrials sector at US6.8 billion and the energy sector with US$5.1 billion.

JP Morgan held on to its spot as the top global investment bank by estimated fees, Refinitiv said, with US$4.6 billion in first half fees.

Goldman Sachs ranked second and BofA Securities was third.

RBC Capital Markets was the leading Canadian firm in the global rankings, in 12th place, down one spot from last year.

TD Securities Inc. was the only other Canadian shop in the top 25, holding on to 22nd place in the global rankings.