Low interest rates proved mightier than concern about Europe's precarious economics in 2011. The opportunity to refinance debt at low rates drove $2.9 trillion in corporate bond sales, the second-highest total on record after 2009's $3.2 trillion.

Corporate and sovereign-bond deals around the world generated a total of $13.6 billion in fees for bankers, down from $14.9 billion in 2010, according to data compiled for Bloomberg Markets' ranking of the best-paid investment banks.

JPMorgan led the list, taking or sharing the top spot for the fourth straight year as it earned $1.05 billion, down from $1.26 billion in 2010. Barclays Capital jumped to No. 2 from No. 4 in 2010, after earning $906 million in fees, up from $870 million in 2010, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its April issue.

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