Fourth-quarter merger and acquisition activity in the Midwest increased for a second consecutive quarter, according to the Bridgepoint Midwest M&A Index produced by Bridgepoint Merchant Banking.  The M&A index increased by 8.9 percent in the fourth quarter, following a 15.4 percent gain in the third quarter, reflecting a solid rebound from a weak first half of 2013, the firm said. Bridgepoint, an investment banking and private equity firm with offices in Des Moines and Lincoln, Neb., counted 318 M&A transactions for the fourth quarter for the region including Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. That's down from 328 in the third quarter. Quarterly median deal size increased from $17.5 million in the third quarter to $31.4 million in the fourth quarter. Bridgepoint expects Midwest M&A activity to outpace national growth this year due to "a stable regional economy and a robust financing environment," Managing Principal Adam Claypool said.