Confidence in the economy, cash on corporate balance sheets, dry powder in private equity funds, low interest rates and high stock prices all combined to create a nourishing ecosystem for deals throughout 2014. In the U.S. middle market, 2014 yielded a total deal value of $315.3 billion, the highest since 2007, according to Thomson Reuters. Deal volume performed solidly, if not spectacularly, with 2,303 transactions closing -- 125 more than the previous year but not quite as many as other recent years. (For a look at M&A volume and value over a 10-year span, see related charts.) Although December did not deliver the end-of-the-year boost of recent years, dealmakers still predicted the good times will continue to roll. An impressive 70 percent of transaction pros polled by Mergers & Acquisitions in December said they expect deal flow to increase in 2015. 

Beyond the middle market, big M&A flourished, with 40,298 transactions worth nearly $3.5 trillion announced worldwide in 2014, according to Thomson Reuters.

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