Led by Facebook, initial public offering volume reached $43 billion in 2012, the highest amount since $49 billion in 2007, reports Renaissance Capital, which tracks IPOs.

Facebook’s $16 billion IPO led the way, in a year when only three others (Santander Mexico, Linn, and Realogy) topped $1 billion in the U.S. The Facebook IPO was the third-largest U.S. IPO of all time (behind Visa and ENEL), the seventh-largest global IPO on record, and the biggest venture capital-backed deal in IPO history.

Despite its size, Renaissance termed Facebook’s IPO a “botched offering.” Investors have had little to cheer about, as the stock now trades around $26, down from its $38 IPO price. Nevertheless, Facebook didn’t make Renaissance Capital’s list of worst performers for 2012. Two technology sector companies, Envivio (down 81%) and CafePress (-72%) were the largest laggards.

Overcoming such disappointments, the average total return for 2012 IPOs was 16.5%, through mid-December, up from a negative 9.5% return for calendar year 2011. The biggest gains were posted by Guidewire Software, up 136% from its IPO, and Intercept Pharmaceuticals (131%). Six other IPOs had returns over 100%.

What can advisors expect in 2013?

Notable IPO filers mentioned by Renaissance include ING’s American unit; Bright Horizons Family Solutions, which offers work site child care and early education centers; and Zoetis, Pfizer’s animal health unit. The Zoetis IPO is expected early in 2013, raising as much as $4 billion.

Altogether, though, the IPO market is likely to offer relatively few choices for investors. The last three years, 2010 through 2012, have seen the average deal count (136 per year) drop well below the average of 205 IPOs from 2004 through 2007. “When major exogenous events, such as the European debt crisis and the fiscal cliff, roil the securities markets, IPO activity slows or shuts down altogether,” Renaissance commented.

The recent downturn in IPOs also is blamed on unusually slow GDP growth and ongoing high unemployment. The JOBS Act that passed in 2012 included opening the IPO market to small growth companies among its goals, but “has had no noticeable effects other than reducing the minimum time from filing to pricing.” The bottom line, Renaissance concluded, is that a good year for IPOs requires “not only a constructive resolution to the fiscal cliff, but also a steadier recovery in the broader equity markets.”

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