What was supposed to be a big show of strength in the new-issues market fizzled Wednesday, bolstering concerns that the IPO craze of 2006 might have seen its best days.

Despite a marquee success in preppy retailer J. Crew ( JCG), the overall trend was disappointing as underwriters struggled to sell as many as seven initial public offerings. Three deals priced below their hoped-for range, while three others didn't get priced at all.

"Looking at the past month, the fact that the majority have priced below the range makes you think the IPO market is softening in lockstep with the equity market," said Doug Lovett, equity analyst at Morningstar. "At the same time, we've seen a couple of IPOs withdrawn because companies weren't happy with the price."

J. Crew was the notable exception Wednesday, its shares jumping nearly 25% on their first day of trading. The company priced 18.8 million initial shares at $20 apiece Tuesday night, topping the expected range of $15 to $17 a share and raising about $376 million for itself and its private-equity backers. The offering cut the ownership stake of major shareholder Texas Pacific to about 40% from just above 50%.

By late morning, the stock had shot up $4.92 to $24.92, with more than 15 million shares changing hands.

But other deals had more trouble. Three of the companies that priced IPOs Tuesday night cut their offering price -- in one case by more than 30%.

PGT ( PGTI) originally anticipated pricing between $16 to $18 a share, but ended up going out at $14. Meanwhile, Omniture ( OMTR) priced at $6.50 per share, below the $7.50 to $9 a share range. Replidyne ( RDYN) issued shares at $10 a share, $4 below the lowest range of its $14 to $16 price.

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