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By Hao Li | April 9, 2012 11:26 AM PDT

European private equity funds raised 82 percent more capital in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period last year, Dow Jones LP Source, a research service for the industry, said Monday.

The total amount raised, $22.3 billion, was dominated by the larger players, as three leading funds accounted for more than half of the total.

In the U.S., where funds raised for the first quarter increased by 4 percent to $38.1 billion, 11 of the largest funds accounted for more than half of the total capital raised.

In both regions, buyout and corporate finance funds accounted for most of the capital, with $21.9 billion raised in the U.S. and $18.4 billion raised Europe.

As interest rates remain stuck at historic lows and the outlook for the global economy anemic at best, some investors and companies have opted to pour money into the private equity space instead of investing in traditional financial assets or funding business expansions.

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