Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Global merger and acquisition activity fell sharply in the first quarter of 2020, with dollar volume dropping 28% to $698 billion and the number of deals off 14% to 9,616, according to preliminary data from Refinitiv.

The big picture: The dollar drop was largely driven by the disappearance of megadeals valued at over $10 billion, which fell from $412 billion for the Jan. 1–March 28 period in 2019, to $179 billion that same period this year.

  • U.S. deal value also took a big bite, off 51%, which was enough to offset gains in Europe (+120%) and Japan (+66%).
  • The biggest falls by sector were for energy, health care, and materials. The only significant gainer was industrials, while consumer products, consumer staples, and retail were largely flat.
  • Private equity deal dollars actually rose slightly, bringing its percentage of the M&A market up from 10.7% in 2019 to 15.6% in 2020.

The deal number drop is a bit more complicated.

  • Yes, a 14% fall is significant. And unlike with the deal dollars, private equity played a major role with a 25% year-over-year decline.
  • But it's not much higher than the 13.1% decline between the 2018 and 2019 time periods.

The bottom line: Last year the deal dollar and number drops were nearly on par with one another, which suggests that there has been a lot of downward renegotiation over deals that were almost at the finish line.

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In pictures: Storm Zeta churns inland after lashing Louisiana

Debris on the streets as then-Hurricane Zeta passes over in Arabi, Louisiana, on Oct. 28. It's the third hurricane to hit Louisiana in about two months, after Laura and Delta. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Tropical Storm Zeta has killed at least two people, triggered flooding, downed powerlines and caused widespread outages since making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday.

The big picture: A record 11 named storms have made landfall in the U.S. this year. Zeta is the fifth named storm to do so in Louisiana in 2020, the most ever recorded. It weakened t0 a tropical storm early Thursday, as it continued to lash parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle with heavy rains and strong winds.

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