IPO underwriting firms have been hampered by a nearly dead IPO market in the first quarter, but recent trends point to rebound on the horizon.

Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. ( MJN) was the only significant U.S. initial public offering in the first quarter, pricing at $24 and opening at $26 on Feb. 11. There were 57 U.S. IPOs in 2008, raising $29.4 billion, according to data from consulting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers, which says IPO activity last year was as low as it has been since the 1970s.

That is bleak news indeed for underwriting firms like Goldman Sachs ( GS), Morgan Stanley ( MS) JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Citigroup ( C), which also have coped with a significant slowdown in the M&A market.

Twenty-nine companies, however, have recently filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission signaling their intention to go public if the market turns more hospitable, according to a report from Greenwich, Conn.-based Renaissance Capital.

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