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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

31 mins ago - World

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.

Sullivan speaks with Israel's national security adviser for the first time

Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat U.S. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/Getty Images. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Chandan Khanna/Getty Images

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

Biden speaks to Mexican president about reversing Trump's "draconian immigration policies"

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

President Biden told his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a phone call Friday that he plans to reverse former President Trump’s “draconian immigration policies.”

The big picture: The Biden administration has already started repealing several of Trump’s immigration policies, including ordering a 100-day freeze on deporting many unauthorized immigrants, halting work on the southern border wall, and reversing plans to exclude undocumented people from being included in the 2020 census.