10 Things You Need to Know About the First Half

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The first half of 2013 was a time when stocks were gold and gold was, well, not so golden, when junk was the top of the heap and Caterpillar snaked along the bottom.

Like so many years before it, the period saw meteoric highs and catastrophic lows, and these were some of the highlights (and a few lowlights as well).

1. Merger Mania? Not so much: Companies held nearly $1.8 trillion on their balance sheets but spent little on mergers and acquisitions. First-half global volume rose to $1.25 trillion, up a notch from the same period last year, but the second-quarter tally of $589.5 billion was the worst such period in three years. Comparisons that go back three years are not good, seeing as the economy was still recovering from the Great Recession back then. One bright spot: The U.S., which saw a 21 percent increase to $509.7 billion in the first half. (Data source: Dealogic)

2. M&A, However, Was Good for JPM: JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank by deposits, took the Wall Street title for most-used M&A advisor, collecting a cool $160 billion on deals, finishing ahead of Bank of America, which raked in $149 billion. The greatest amount of total deals went to Goldman Sachs, with 71 transactions that amounted to $141 billion. (Mergermarket)

(Read More: The EU's Odd Antitrust Case Against the Banks)

3. JPM Just Kind of Ruled the Roost, Period: Investment banking fees totaled a healthy $39 billion, an 8 percent increase over last year and the best total in two years. JPMorgan led the way with $3 billion, or 7.7 percent of market share. Its competitors are gaining through. BofA placed second with $2.8 billion and joined Goldman and Morgan Stanley in reporting significant wallet-share gains this year. (Thomson Reuters)

4. Dow Flew on Boeing: The biggest percentage gainer for the Dow industrials was Boeing, up about 35 percent for the half. In terms of Dow points, the aircraft manufacturer contributed 207.95 of the blue chip index's 1,805.46-point gain. (S&P Dow Jones Indices)

5. But It Crawled on CAT: Only three companies subtracted points from the industrials, and the worst offender was Caterpillar, a stock weakened by a global slowdown in demand for its construction machinery. The company pulled 15.45 points from the Dow, joining only IBM and Alcoa as losers. (S&P Dow Jones Indices)

6. No Junkyard Dogs: The first half wrapped and the second half began with huge questions surrounding the fixed income market. No sector has performed better than junk, which saw issuance that set a first-half record despite a precipitous June decline. Companies went to market with $278 billion of high-yield debt, a stunning 55 percent rise over 2012. Investors in the bonds were rewarded ... sort of. Amid a sea of bond-market red, the Barclays Corporate High Yield Index rose 1.4 percent through June. (Dealogic)

(Read More: Before Exiting Bonds, Try These Ideas)

7. Quality Counts, Too: It wasn't just junk that was popular. Despite fears that the Federal Reserve backstop would be fading for the debt markets, high-grade companies weren't shy about issuing debt, either. Investment-grade debt totaled $910 billion, up 10 percent from 2012, of which $448.6 billion came in the second quarter, a 17 percent increase and the best second-quarter ever. (Dealogic)

8. Dividends Were Just Delightful: The period saw 1,535 dividend increases against just 204 decreases or suspensions. In the second-quarter alone that amounted to $17.6 billion, with the year-to-date total about $31 billion. (S&P Dow Jones Indices)

9. Insert Your Favorite "Tarnished Gold" Wordplay Here: Hold gold? Not much point in selling now, with the yellow metal off 30 percent from its Oct. 4, 2012, intraday peak of $1,803 an ounce. How bad was the gold liquidation this year? The SPDR Gold exchange-traded fund surrendered $18.2 billion in assets for the first six months, while the Powershares DB Gold ETF lost another $269 million. Never-say-die gold bugs are hoping for a pop ... somewhere. (IndexUniverse)

(Read More: Gold Bugged: Contrarians Not Ready to Give Up Yet)

10. Nothing Like the First Time: While the year has had so many positive trading sessions, nothing matched opening day. Relieved that the "fiscal cliff" hysteria had passed, traders sent the Dow up 308.41 points on Jan. 2. The worst day: That happened on June 20 with a 353.87-point drop when panicky traders worried that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was about to take his punch bowl and go home, spoiling the raucous four-year-long stock market party. (S&P Dow Jones Indices)

—By CNBC's Jeff Cox. Follow him @JeffCoxCNBCcom on Twitter.