The numbers coming out of the first quarter of 2014 paint a cautiously sunny picture. Some data pointed to a stellar outlook. Deal value soared, with the first three months of the year yielding total middle-market deal value of $66.9 billion -- the highest for the first quarter since 2008. And yet, closing many deals continued to prove challenging in the first quarter, as it was throughout the previous year.

At 506, the number of completed middle-market deals in the first quarter dropped to the second-lowest level it has been in five years, ahead of only the first three months of 2012, which produced 487 completed transactions worth $1 billion or less. (Watch video interviews with commentary on the first quarter on our video site and below.)

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