2016 is on track for the record year of foreign acquisitions in the U.S.

Foreign investors have jumped on any opportunity this year to buy American companies.

They have spent $223 billion buying American companies, which amounts to 34 percent of the total deal value — and nearly twice the level at this time last year. That's according to a May 2016 report by Richard Peterson of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Total U.S. mergers and acquisitions spending in 2016 is $663 billion, including a proposed acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft for $26.2 billion announced Monday.

This year's 34 percent share of foreign acquirers is by far the highest in all the data going back to 1998:

Europe ranks as the top purchasing region, with an aggregate deal value of $155 billion. Four of the top five biggest deals come from Europe.

For instance, German pharmaceutical giant Bayer's $62 billion proposed takeover of Missouri-based fertilizer and agricultural company Monsanto is the top deal this year. It's also the second-largest ever proposed foreign acquisition of an American target.

Second on the list is Ireland's Shire Pharmaceutical's proposed $32 billion acquisition of Illinois-based Baxalta Group.

While cross-border M&A activity is nothing new, the growing trend of foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies points to "the slowdown in global economic growth, low-cost financing, and negative interest rates in developed economies of Europe and Asia as being the primary reasons contributing to this development," Peterson said.

Record Asian acquisitions

Second to Europe, the Asia region is the most active U.S. company buyer, with a total of $37 billion in deal size. The top country in that region is China. Here are some of the Asian stats:

  • * $37 billion total deal size
  • * 17 percent of all foreign M&A into the U.S.
  • * 72 deals have closed

China itself has been grown tremendously in wanting to buy American companies:

  • * 27 new deals
  • * Over $33 billion in value

That's a big jump from last year when only $2.9 billion of deals had closed during the same period.

Some of the high-profile Chinese transactions include the acquisition of luxury hotel owner Strategic Hotels & Resorts by Anbang Insurance Group for $6.5 billion; Ingram Micro by Tianjin Tianhai Investment for $6 billion (upon completion of the transaction, Ingram Micro will operate as a subsidiary of Tianjin Tianhai, consolidated under HNA Group) and GE Appliances by Qingdao Haier for $5.4 billion.

Materials sector lead

The top three target sectors are materials, health care, and financials:

  • Materials: $71 billion
  • Health Care: $52 billion
  • Financials: $24 billion

That's all in about a third of the year. If the trend keeps up, 2016 would set a new record for foreign takeovers of U.S. companies.

"Extrapolating this year's $223 billion in announced foreign acquisitions for the balance of the year it would be reasonable to see foreign acquisitions in the U.S. this year top the previous annual record of $444 billion set in 2015," S&P report concluded.