The latest fund-raising news for venture capital firms is a mix of good and bad.

The bad news: Fewer VC firms raised money in the first quarter of 2009 than at any time since 2003.

The good news: The closers did bring in more than $4.3 billion, which was $800 million higher than 47 firms raised in the fourth quarter of 2008 as the full impact of the current global economic crisis struck investors and investment funds.

“As you will see, venture capital fundraising volume declined in Q1 2009, to the lowest number of funds raising money from institutional investors since 2003,” the noted in its report that is based on data from Thomson Reuters.

“However, firms with track records were still able to raise significant dollars from limited partners,” the trade group added. “The number of new funds raised was down significantly, compared to follow-on funds. We expect this lower volume overall to continue until there is sustained stability in the market.”

Pappas Ventures, which is based in the Triangle, was among the first-quarter closers. In March, Pappas disclosed it had closed on $102 million.

Marc Heesen, NVCA’s president, said the latest statistics show that the VC industry is far from dead.

“The first quarter fundraising data suggests two distinct dynamics currently taking place during the economic downturn,” he said. “First, the majority of venture firms are not actively fundraising at this time because they have either recently raised a fund and are investing those dollars or are waiting until market conditions improve.

“Second, despite the recession, venture firms with solid track records continue to be able to secure sizable commitments from limited partners as there remains a great deal of promise for future returns from the venture capital asset class,” he added.

Forty funds raised $4.316 billion. However, only three new funds surfaced. That’s the lowest new fund launch since 10 in the first quarter of 2008.