It's been an awful year for initial public offerings for just about every Wall Street firm. But it's been downright brutal for J.P. Morgan Chase ( JPM), which has dropped to 20th place in the industry rankings of lead underwriters on domestic IPOs.

The lowly score leaves J.P. Morgan trailing the likes of Keefe Bruyette & Woods, Morgan Keegan and William Blair -- niche players that lack the storied history of J.P. Morgan. Last year, according to Thomson Financial Securities Data, J.P. Morgan came in at a respectable seventh place in the rankings, which are based on the total dollar value of new stock offerings an investment bank brings to market.

On Wall Street, investment banks that don't break into the top 10 in underwriting IPOs usually are either specialized boutiques or struggling also-rans. No one would think to classify J.P. Morgan, which has visions of creating a financial behemoth that would rival the firepower of Citigroup ( C), as an investment-banking boutique.

Indeed, this year's rankings demonstrate just how wide a gap there is between J.P. Morgan and Citigroup, the nation's biggest financial-services firm, when it comes to IPO underwriting for U.S. companies. Citigroup's Salomon Smith Barney investment-banking division sits in first place in the latest Securities Data rankings.

So far, Citigroup has taken a lead underwriting position on 10 IPOs with a combined market value of $6.27 billion. Its nearest competitor is Goldman Sachs ( GS), which has managed six IPOs with a combined value of $3.45 billion.

J.P. Morgan, by comparison, was the co-lead underwriter this year on just a single IPO -- a $90 million stock offering for USI Holdings ( USIH), a small San Francisco-based financial-services firm. But since J.P. Morgan shared the underwriting assignment with Merrill Lynch ( MER), Securities Data only gives the bank credit for bringing $44.5 million of new stock offerings to market this year.

Admittedly, the rankings don't tell the full story, because every firm's numbers are down sharply from just a few years ago. With only a few weeks left in the year, just 73 domestic IPOs have come to market with a combined dollar value of $20.1 billion. In 1999, at the peak of the stock market bubble, Wall Street firms underwrote a record 481 IPOs worth $58.7 billion.

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