Lenders on commercial real estate were more active than a year ago. Most of the firms in our annual ranking of the biggest direct lenders and intermediaries increased volumes from last year.

Wells Fargo again tops the direct lender list by a wide margin. The firm financed $43.66 billion in commercial real estate loans in 2011—a nearly $7 billion increase over the $36.90 billion in activity it reported in 2010. PNC Real Estate jumped to the number two spot in our list with $11.01 billion in loans, barely edging MetLife’s $11.00 billion figure. The output was up from $4.40 billion for PNC and $8.40 billion for MetLife in 2010.

On the financial intermediary side, HFF more than doubled its volume from $11.90 billion in 2010 to $22.97 billion in 2011. Meridian Capital Group claimed the number two slot by arranging $17.25 billion, edging a trio of firms—Wells Fargo, Eastdil Secured and CBRE Group—that all arranged more than $16 billion in financing in 2011. In contrast, in 2010 only two firms—HFF and CBRE—topped $10 billion on the financial intermediary side.

The rankings confirm what the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) has been reporting in recent months. The level of commercial/multifamily mortgage debt outstanding was $2.36 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2011—essentially flat with the fourth quarter of 2010. Commercial banks continue to hold the largest share of commercial/multifamily mortgages, $794 billion, or 34 percent of the total.

Commercial/multifamily originations during the fourth quarter of 2011 were up 13 percent over the fourth quarter of 2010, according to the MBA. The MBA originations index stood at 129 in the fourth quarter (see chart below). That was down slightly from 138 in the third quarter. There hasn’t been a higher level of originations since the second quarter of 2008. (A score of 100 equals an average quarter in 2001.)

Some types of lenders have recovered faster than others. The conduits index stood at just 31, but for commercial banks (143), life insurance companies (216) and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (236), originations have recovered significantly from credit crisis lows are even reached new peaks.

Follow the links below to see who made the cut.

Top 25 Direct Lenders.

Top 25 Financial Intermediaries.