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Stock information is displayed on a monitor at Nasdaq's office in Times Square. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Multibillion-dollar stock market debuts from companies like Zoom, Uber and Pinterest have grabbed headlines in 2019 with eye-popping numbers, but new data shows IPO activity actually declined significantly this year, globally and in the U.S.

What's happening: Capital raised for both domestic and cross-border IPOs fell by 37% year-over-year, with volume down 34%, multinational law firm Baker McKenzie reports.

  • The decline from 2018's first 6 months was sharper than expected, with a total of $69.8 billion raised through June across 514 deals, the lowest for both measures since 2016.
  • Cross-border IPO activity fell particularly hard, with a 16% drop in volume and a 55% drop in value compared to 2018.
  • One asterisk to the numbers: the prolonged government shutdown that froze IPO filings for much of January.

Why it matters: A global slowdown in mergers and acquisitions, manufacturing and now capital generation and IPOs shows that 2019 has been an especially tough year for business.

  • The drop in cross-border IPOs may reflect yet another way commerce is being slowed by growing nationalism and fading globalization.

On the other hand: While 2019 has hardly been the best of times, Tom Rice, partner at Baker McKenzie, expects the second half of the year to show "some rays of light."

  • Rice says the U.S. stock market selloff in December coupled with the government shutdown — the longest on record, shuttering the SEC for more than a month — played a major role in the decline of both the number of IPOs and the amount of cash raised by businesses.

What's next? With those disruptions now in the rear-view mirror, Rice is confident the IPO market has strong momentum heading into the second half of the year, especially with the S&P 500 again nearing all-time highs and recent IPOs from companies like Fiverr, Beyond Meat and Chewy riding waves of bullish investor sentiment.

  • "Tensions with China may result in some slowing and more cautious activity in terms of capital formation by Chinese-operated companies looking to list in places like the U.S., but that’s only one piece of the action."

Watch this space: The one part of the world for which Rice does not have high hopes this year is Europe, where business remains paralyzed because of Brexit and the deteriorating economic environment.

Go deeper

7 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

7 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.

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