ByDeborah Austin Merger-and-acquisition (M&A) activity, bogged in economic uncertainty, could rebound in the next year or two, suggests global professional services organization PricewaterhouseCoopers' latest "Management Barometer" survey of senior executives. Overall, 55% of top executives polled in the fourth quarter of 2001 said the M&A climate in their own industry had slowed within the past 24 months. Among those, 57% cautioned that a comeback would depend on increased market demand for goods and services. Nearly 60% of those who had noted a slowdown, however, said they anticipated an M&A boost in their industry within 12 months -- and 90% within 24 months. Only 22% foresaw an increase within six months. Of those planning new M&A's within the next two years, 58% were in the product sector, including 50% in manufacturing. Thanks to an uncertain business climate, the M&A market seems "in a trough," says Brian Levy, a Transaction Services technology partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, New York. Such uncertainty shrinks available acquisition resources, heightens risks regarding presumed contributions of the acquired business, and compounds concerns about holding key employees, he reports.