Merger and acquisition activity among chemical firms slipped in 2013 compared with the year earlier, continuing a downward trend that started in 2010. However, an uptick in activity at the end of 2013 bodes well for 2014, say industry consultants. According to a survey by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the number of transactions valued at $50 million or more declined more than 20% in 2013 to 102 deals compared with the year before. The total value of deals dipped 45% in 2013 to $35.2 billion. However, in the fourth quarter of 2013, PwC counted 36 deals valued at $18.8 billion compared with 23 deals in the third quarter worth $4.9 billion. Improving economic activity and U.S. shale gas opportunities account for the uptick and expectations for a faster merger pace in 2014, PwC says. Consultants at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu are also expecting more mergers in 2014. Accounting for the improvement, they say, are such trends as an expanding global middle class, population growth, and food security concerns.