As we’ve chronicled regularly of late, the U.S. IPO market is red hot. Thirty-eight companies went public in February and March, the busiest two-month stretch for initial public offerings since November and December of 2010.

But the U.S. was the exception in what was an otherwise slow first quarter globally for IPOs.

According to Dealogic Inc., only 174 companies world-wide launched IPOs from January through March – the lowest IPO total since the third quarter of 2009. The $16.5 billion those IPOs raised was the lowest dollar amount globally since the second quarter of 2009, when a measly $11.4 billion was raised.

The number of global IPOs was down 43% from the first quarter of 2011, while the money raised was down 63%.

IPOs in Europe were particularly slow. That’s no surprise given all the sovereign debt turmoil still plaguing the euro-zone. With so much uncertainty in the market, only 17 European companies went public in the first quarter, raising $3.2 billion – down 72% and 18%, respectively, in number of deals and dollars raised from a year ago.

In Asia, 96 companies went public, raising $6.7 billion. Those numbers were down 42% and 73%, respectively, from the 2011 first quarter. However, that tally doesn’t include Japan, which had one of the best performing stock markets in the world in the first quarter.  Japanese stocks in general gained 19% over the last three months, and IPOs picked up slightly from the prior year.

But the U.S. was one of the few countries where IPOs truly flourished – a sign, perhaps, that corporate confidence in the U.S. markets is growing.

With Facebook preparing to go public in May, the second quarter could again be a busy one for U.S. IPOs. No fewer than eight IPOs are scheduled to price in the first two weeks of April.

Can the rest of the world catch up? Or will economic uncertainty continue to discourage companies from going public in places like Europe and China?

One thing’s for sure: after such a slow quarter for global IPOs, there’s plenty of room for improvement this quarter.

Published by Wyatt Investment Research at