Let's get the bad news out of the way. Although there have been reports celebrating a wave of M&A, they are based on mega deals with valuations way beyond the $1 billion threshold by which we define the high end of the middle market.

Also, keep in mind that those reports are based on deals that have been only announced, not ones that have actually closed. Many of the potential transactions face antitrust hurdles and other obstacles that may mean they never bear fruit. The reality is that, throughout 2015, completed middle-market transactions fell, according to data from Thomson Reuters. The second quarter produced fewer closed deals than the first, and the third yielded even fewer. For more, see Dealmakers Closed 100 Fewer Transactions in October than in the Same Month Last Year.

The likelihood that M&A in the fourth quarter will pick up seems slim, given widespread concerns about the global economy cited by dealmakers on Mergers & Acquisitions’ monthly surveys. China’s economic slowdown, the Syrian refugee crisis, volatile oil prices, uncertainty about interest rates and the upcoming U.S. elections are among the issues giving dealmakers pause. Looking ahead to 2016, our survey respondents predict slower growth over the next 12 months.

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