At SourceMedia, the B2B publishing company that owns Mergers & Acquisitions, we’ve been conducting our annual strategic planning process. It’s a worthwhile exercise that makes us step back and examine our brand, the market we cover and our forecast for the year ahead. For me, the process coincided with writing the mid-year update that serves as this issue’s cover story.

Both endeavors helped me realize that, the middle market may be at a pivot point this summer, or perhaps a fork in the road. Traffic metaphors keep coming up, as images of road signs, saying “Caution” and “Slow Traffic Ahead,” appear in my imagination.

Generally speaking, I’m a pretty optimistic person. Like many of the dealmakers interviewed for this issue’s cover story, I tend to see the glass half full. When it came to 2014, I was a true believer. But for 2015, my interpretation of the tea leaves is less auspicious.

At the beginning of every month, I spend a lot of time analyzing data about the previous month from several sources. I pay close attention to the results of Mergers & Acquisitions’ monthly surveys, which generate the Mid-Market M&A Conditions Index (MACI), a barometer that measures overall deal flow, especially the early stages, and is sponsored by PwC; and the Mid-Market Pulse (MMP), a forward-looking sentiment indicator that focuses on high-growth sectors and is published in partnership with McGladrey LLP. And I pore over the deal value and volume results on completed deals from Thomson Reuters.

Examining all the information about the first half of 2015, three data points really stand out, and give me pause: First, the first month of the year has been the best. Second, completed deal volume and value were not as high in May and June as they were in 2014. And third, the 250-plus dealmakers who participated in our June poll said they are more optimistic about the next three months than they are about the next 12. 

If they’re right, we may look back at the end of the year and long for the early days. In hindsight, it may be clear that 2015 was frontloaded.

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