Investors have watched the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) closely, especially given how much it has outperformed the broader market. Optimism about the stock market's prospects for 2021 has given the tech-heavy benchmark a boost lately, and the Nasdaq's gain of more than 1% as of noon EST gave it a shot at challenging its all-time high from last week.

Rising activity in the mergers and acquisitions space has been a boon for the market as a whole, and Alexion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALXN) got a massive buyout offer over the weekend. Meanwhile, PayPal Holdings (NASDAQ:PYPL) benefited from another market uptrend as its strategy with respect to cryptocurrency is already showing signs of paying off.

AstraZeneca makes its play for Alexion

Shares of Alexion Pharmaceuticals were up 31% at midday on Monday. Shareholders were trying to assess the potential impact of the buyout bid that AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) made on Saturday morning.

AstraZeneca is offering $60 in cash plus 2.1243 shares of stock for every Alexion share, representing a total package worth $175 per share based on AstraZeneca's closing stock price on Friday. That puts a price tag of $39 billion on Alexion.

According to AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot, Alexion's leadership in treating rare diseases with complement biology makes the company a valuable complement to AstraZeneca's immunology business. It will also expand AstraZeneca's pipeline, and the CEO is hopeful that the combination will yield many life-changing medicines for patients in the years to come.

Yet not everyone is convinced the deal makes sense. Some stock analysts appear concerned that the move could signal weakness in AstraZeneca's existing portfolio of treatments. Although diversifying its treatment focus could be helpful, AstraZeneca's concentration on oncology drugs could limit the opportunities for synergy-related savings. With plenty of regulatory review of a merger this size, investors will have a while to think about the ramifications of AstraZeneca and Alexion joining forces.

Gold circle with bitcoin symbol on it, in front of a stock chart.

Image source: Getty Images.

PayPal rises on bitcoin boom

Shares of PayPal were higher by nearly 4% at midday on Monday. The gains came as the price of bitcoin rose by more than $1,000 over the weekend, coming within a few percentage points of challenging its all-time record of nearly $20,000.

PayPal has made a massive move toward embracing bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, offering purchases and sales in four different tokens to users of its service. Already, the offering has attracted a huge amount of attention, and prospects look good for PayPal to enjoy the same benefits that rival Square (NYSE:SQ) did upon making bitcoin trading available in its Cash App.

To be clear, there's still a ways to go before PayPal takes the more important step of allowing customers and merchants using its platform to conduct sales transactions using cryptocurrency. Until that happens, it's unlikely that bitcoin will truly enter the mainstream as an alternative to cash-based transactions.

Nevertheless, PayPal's steps in the direction of cryptocurrency adoption have been a big win for bitcoin. And now, when bitcoin rises, it's likely to have a positive impact on PayPal's prospects as well.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.