M&A being driven by equal parts bull and bear sentiment: Altman

Merger and acquisition activity is being driven in equal parts by bullish and bearish sentiment, Evercore Executive Chairman and founder Roger Altman said Friday.

"While the economic data is weak, most businesses feel all right about the way things are," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "

"At the same time, when the top line is weak … the appeal of synergies — merger-related synergies — is higher, and that drives transactions because the alternatives in terms of where you find growth are more limited."

This past week saw a string of dealmaking, including Abbott Laboratories' purchase of St. Jude Medical and Comcast's announcement it would buy DreamWorks Animation.

Mergers and acquisitions topped $5 trillion last year for the first time ever, according to Dealogic.

Investors can expect to see healthy dealmaking throughout 2016 so long as financial market conditions do not deteriorate, Altman said. M&A has thawed following an outbreak of volatility in January, he noted.

"Share prices are a proxy for confidence," he said. "If your share price is very high, you feel confident and you feel enthusiastic about next moves.When your share price is low … you don't feel confident and you tend to pull back."

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.

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