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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There was only $164 billion of announced global mergers and acquisitions in January, the slowest start to a year since 2013, per Refinitiv.

Why it matters: This comes off a 2019 in which volume was down slightly from 2018, but still the fourth-largest dollar volume in history and sixth-straight year above $3 trillion.

  • At first blush, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. CEO confidence is through the roof, companies are flush with stock thanks to buybacks, and private equity is sitting on Everest-like piles of dry powder.

Three theories for the early 2020 lethargy:

1. Regulatory pressures. All sorts of deals are being blocked, or at least put under very tough scrutiny, by a variety of governments in a variety of industries. It's not just about U.S. regulators and big tech (which, truth be told, has largely skated so far).

  • The FTC this morning announced it will sue to block Edgewell, the maker of Schick razors, from buying Harry's for $1.3 billion in cash and stock.
  • Harry's says it is "disappointed" and is "evaluating the best path forward."

2. Coronavirus. This won't permanently stop mergers that make strategic and financial sense, but it could slow announcements until both parties can get a better handle on what the spreading illnesses mean for their businesses (including for their supply chains).

3. Political uncertainty: It's mostly a CEO excuse for not pulling the trigger, but it's still being discussed. Particularly in a presidential election year in which two of the leading Democratic candidates are pledging to fundamentally restructure a healthcare industry that played host to many of last year's largest deals (including BMS buying Celgene for $74 billion).

The bottom line: January may prove to have been an anomaly, and 2020 M&A volume could end up more closely resembling 2019 than 2013. But so far it's been all systems stop.

Go deeper: Guitar-maker Fender gets new majority owner

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest — triggering widespread power outages and flooding.

Why it matters: The strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood.

“You blew it”: GOP activist turns on corporations over vaccine mandates

The chairman of the American Conservative Union said on "Axios on HBO" he accepts "Joe Biden is my president, and I want him to succeed," but predicted Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022 — with greater than 50% odds Donald Trump runs in 2024.

The big picture: In a joint interview with his wife, Mercedes, Matt Schlapp also refused to share their vaccination status. And he told corporate America "you blew it" by embracing vaccine mandates and liberal social stances that have alienated GOP voters and politicians.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Pelosi expects “billionaire’s tax” to pay for Biden social spending

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday she expects the chamber to pass the bipartisan infrastructure plan by week’s end, and alternatives to corporate tax hikes and a “billionaires tax” will be used to finance President Biden’s promised expansion to the social safety net.

Why it matters: Pelosi’s comments come as House and Senate leaders try to wrap up a deal. What will get cut — and how the remainder will be paid — are linchpins to a final agreement.