Middle-market dealmaking in the first quarter of 2015 performed about as well as the same period the previous year. That may sound like damning with faint praise, but given that 2014 was the best year since 2007, an on-par quarter is worth celebrating.

Confidence continues, as demonstrated by the results of Mergers & Acquisitions' monthly surveys. The outlook for the year remains rosy, according to our Mid-Market M&A Conditions Index (MACI), a barometer sponsored by PwC. Respondents mentioned several factors for their ongoing optimism, including consumer confidence, which reached a 10-year high in the first quarter and is driven in part by a boost to discretionary spending as families paid less for fuel. One new development adding some urgency to closing deals quickly is the widely held belief that interest rates will rise later in the year.

Health care, the sector that dealmakers say they expect will generate the most M&A activity over the next 12 months, is featured in this issue's Mid-Market Pulse (MMP), a forward-looking sentiment indicator, published in partnership with McGladrey LLP. Survey respondents forecasted soaring growth in health care M&A over the next 12 months, as buyers continue to seek innovations to meet the market demands created by the Affordable Care Act.

Thanks to falling fuel prices, the energy sector is having a very interesting year. "The downdraft creates phenomenal opportunities for energy investors," says David Capobianco, co-founder of Five Point Capital Partners, in our cover story. "Buying assets at this point in the cycle creates asymmetric upside."

For more stories from the May 2015 issue of Mergers & Acquisitions, click here.

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