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Global merger and acquisition activity hit $3.9 trillion in 2019, according to Refinitiv.

Why it matters: That represents a 3% decrease from 2018, but was still the fourth-largest dollar volume in history and sixth straight year above $3 trillion.

  • Record-high stock markets and laughably-low interest rates proved more compelling than rising regulatory, geopolitical, and trade uncertainties.

Activity was driven by mega-deals, or transactions valued at more than $10 billion.

  • Mega-deals represented 31% of the global total, a sizable jump from 2018 and the largest-such percentage since 2015 (the busiest-ever year for M&A).
  • This trend also is reflected in how the number of deals decreased 5% year-over-year, and represented a 3-year low.

U.S. deal activity was another upward driver, hitting $1.8 trillion.

  • That's a 6% rise over 2018, and includes 15 of the year's 20 largest announced transactions.
  • The year's largest deal was in the U.S. healthcare sector (+26% year-over-year), with Bristol-Myers Squibb buying Celgene for $74 billion.

Europe and Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan) volume fell 25% and 14%, respectively.

  • Cross-border deals were off 25%, hitting its lowest volume in five years.

The bottom line: 2019 was bolstered by a busy fourth quarter, and it wouldn't be surprising to see that extend a bit into 2020. But then all bets are off — particularly in a presidential election year that could cause some bulls to slow their stampede.

Go deeper: Anti-trust uncertainty is the new normal for dealmakers

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
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Falling sperm counts could threaten the human race

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new book makes the case that sperm counts have been falling for decades — and a major reason is chemicals in the environment that disrupt the body's hormonal system.

Why it matters: The ability to reproduce is fundamental to the viable future of any living thing. If certain chemicals are damaging our fertility over the long term, human beings could end up as an endangered species.

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Black churches become vaccine hubs

A woman arrives at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic outside the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church in southeast D.C. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Black pastors have a new job on their plates during COVID-19: encouraging skeptical congregants to get vaccinated.

Why it matters: “There’s distrust in our community. We can’t ignore that,” Rev. James Coleman of D.C.'s All Nations Baptist told AP.

Biden names USPS board of governors nominees, as Democrats put pressure on DeJoy

United States Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy at a Feb. 24 committee hearing. Photo: Graeme Jennings/pool/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday nominated a former postal union lawyer, a vote-by-mail advocate, and a former deputy postmaster general to sit on the Postal Services' Board of Governors.

Why it matters: The nominations, which require Senate confirmation, come as some Democrats call for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's ouster and others push for Biden to nominate board members to name a new postmaster general.