Yielding a meager 121 completed middle-market deals, January was the least productive month since 1991, based on analyzing data from Thomson Reuters all the way back to 1978. Deal volume for the first month of the year was half that of the same month in the previous year. Total deal value generated in January 2016 was at the lowest point since 2009. (See related chart, showing 10 years of January data.)

The month followed a down year and a dismal fourth quarter for the middle market, which Mergers & Acquisitions defines as deals valued between $10 million on the low end and $1 billion on the high end. The 2015 tally of completed deals fell 200 transactions short of the previous year, a decline of 8 percent. The fourth quarter showed a dramatic dip, with 167 fewer deals closed than the same period a year earlier, representing a 26 percent drop.

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