Image source: Syngenta.

Monday was a generally quiet day for the stock market, and the Dow and S&P 500 both posted very slight declines of around a tenth of a percent each. In the absence of major market-moving news, market participants reverted to their water-treading tendencies, shaking off a more than 3% decline in crude oil prices that took the energy market below the $47.50 per barrel level. Many investors will be on hold until the next central bank monetary policy meeting in late September, but a pickup in merger and acquisition activity today helped establish the idea that investors can still profit even during periods of uncertainty. Among the best performers were Syngenta (NYSE: SYT), Valeant Pharmaceuticals (NYSE:BHC), and BioMarin Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ:BMRN).

Syngenta gets a go-ahead for its deal

Syngenta gained 10% after would-be acquirer China National Chemical received clearance from U.S. officials to move forward with its planned takeover of the agricultural chemicals giant, which is valued at about $44 billion. Some investors had been concerned that the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment might balk at ChemChina's proposed bid for the Swiss maker of pesticides and agricultural seed products, even though only about 25% of its sales actually have ties to North America. The deal isn't set in stone just yet because Syngenta will still need to have approval from other regulatory agencies in Europe. For now, though, investors seem more confident that the buyout will move forward as planned.

Valeant hires a new executive

Valeant Pharmaceuticals climbed 9% in the wake of its decision to appoint a new chief financial officer. Paul Herendeen took over the job, coming over from animal health specialist Zoetis. The move allows former CFO Rob Rosiello to focus on corporate development as executive vice president in that role, and it also puts Valeant in an even stronger position to put allegations of accounting issues that led to financial restatements behind the company. Valeant still faces plenty of substantive challenges, but just the awareness that having new people in leadership roles could make it easier for the company to move forward with a new strategy shows that the drugmaker is doing its best to recover from its poor performance recently.

BioMarin rides on merger coattails

Finally, BioMarin Pharmaceutical rose 7%. The biotech was one of several companies in the industry to benefit from merger and acquisition activity in the space on Monday, after big pharma giant Pfizer agreed to purchase Medivation for $14 billion, or $81.50 per share. The move by Pfizer accentuates the need to pay high prices in order to acquire promising drugs, with Medivation's Xtandi prostate cancer drug seen by many as a blockbuster in the oncology space. The bid is higher by more than half compared to a previous bid that Medivation received from Sanofi, and that has investors in BioMarin and other peers in the space excited that even companies that miss out on Medivation might seek other buyout candidates. Even with today's gains, BioMarin has still lost nearly a quarter of its value in the past year.

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