In recent media analysis of the markets, less attention that the rise in shares buybacks has been given to the M&A markets. And there are some interesting observations to be made from the most recent data on these.
Top level (see https://insight.factset.com/mega-deals-dominate-even-as-the-u.s.-ma-market-remains-in-a-slump for details) analysis is that the overall M&A markets activity is remaining at cyclical lows:
As the chart above shows both values and volumes of M&A activities are shrinking. But the numbers of mega deals are rising:
Per chart above, overall transactions in excess of $1 billion are at an all-time historical high. Per FactSet: "the first half of 2018 has reported the second-highest level of deals valued over $1 billion with 200 deals; the highest level was attained in the first half of 2007 with 210 deals. It is also worth noting that the streak of billion-dollar deals started in 2013, and since then there have been over 100 billion-dollar deals in each half-year. Even in the run-up to the financial crisis the streak was only three years (2005 to 2007). And to help complete the pattern, the dot-com boom had a similar three-year streak of 100 billion-dollar deals in each half-year from 1998 to 2000."
In other words, markets reward concentration risk taking. Mega deals generally add value through increased valuation of the acquiring firm, and through synergies on costs side. But they do not generally add value in terms of future growth capacity. Smaller deals usually add the latter value. Divergence between overall M&A activity and the mega-deals activity is consistent with the secular stagnation theses.