It would be hard to describe July as a banner month for mergers and acquisitions.

Friday’s data from Thomson Reuters shows it was the first month since Sept. 2004 where announced deals totalled less than $100 billion, and the first month in almost six years without a single $5 billion-plus deal. But top executives are starting to talk M&A again, and bankers are starting to lay the groundwork for future deals. As Michael Erman and I wrote earlier:

“Bankers are pointing to early signs of a pick-up in mergers and acquisitions (M&A), with stronger stocks and easier credit conditions helping company bosses regain the confidence to do deals.

“Global announced M&A totaled $968 billion in January to June — little more than 40 percent of pre-crisis volumes in 2007 — and financiers do not expect a sudden return to the hectic dealmaking of the boom years.

“But they say an August holiday lull could be followed by an upswing toward the end of the year, based on more active discussions with clients and in some cases growing pipelines of future deals.”