WASHINGTON Feb 22 Investors appear to be regaining confidence in the public markets based on new data compiled and analyzed by U.S. securities regulators, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Elisse Walter said on Friday.
"For the first time since the financial crisis, the amount of money raised in public debt and equity offerings is rising - up 22 percent last year," Walter told an audience at "The SEC Speaks," an annual conference held in Washington by the Practicing Law Institute.
"It's important that we embrace a regulatory agenda that is consistent with continued growth in public offerings," she said.
Policymakers in Washington have been grappling with how to boost participation in the public markets following the 2007-2009 financial crisis, which wiped out many peoples' retirement savings.
In October 2011, data compiled by the SEC's Division of Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation, or Risk Fin, found that companies were increasingly relying on private offerings as a way to raise capital.
That spike in private offerings came as public issuances fell by 11 percent from 2009 to 2010, the division's director said at the time.
The latest data from Risk Fin suggests that trend may now be reversing.
In response to the steep decline in initial public offerings following the crisis, the U.S. Congress last year passed the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS Act.
That law relaxes many securities laws in an effort to help smaller companies raise capital and make it easier to eventually go public.
Walter, in her speech, did not elaborate on the latest data on public investments, and did not say whether the JOBS Act may be part of the reason for last year's increase.
Some of the JOBS Act's provisions went into effect immediately after the law was passed, including a provision that allows certain companies to submit initial public offering documents confidentially until just 21 days before they launch a road show and start soliciting interest from investors.
Other provisions in the new law, however, still require the SEC to write rules.
In April last year, the SEC said companies were already starting to take advantage of the JOBS Act just a week after President Barack Obama signed it into law.