The ASX 200 closed higher on the day, but it was outpaced by the smaller end of town as the ASX microcap Emerging Companies index jumped by more than 2%.

Gains were led by the ASX 200 Information Technology sector, which rose more than 1%. BNPL leader Afterpay (ASX:APT) rose by more than 2% and continues to trade above $130 — higher than the currency-adjusted offer price from Square Inc of ~$126.

Financial stocks edged higher along with resources and materials.

Iron ore prices steadied on Friday night, although the big miners slipped again in Monday trade and Fortescue got hammered by another ~4.5% .

BIG CAP WINNERS

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M&A activity is alive and well on the ASX, and large cap gains were led today by New Zealand-based fuel distributor Z Energy (NAZ/ASX:ZEL), which jumped more than 10% after getting a $2bn bid from Ampol (ASX:ALD).

The offer is a non-binding indicative proposal at $3.78 per share, and follows on from two previous bids from ALD priced at $3.35 and $3.50 respectively.

European lithium play Vulcan Energy (ASX:VUL) also rose strongly, after announcing it’s retained major European bank BNP Paribas as an advisor in the lead-up to the completion of the Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) for its Zero Carbon Lithium project in Germany.

At its closing price above $13.70, shares in VUL have now risen by more than 7,500% since the start of April last year.

And despite the severe negative impact from COVID-19, shares in listed cinema operator and hotel owner Event Hospitality (ASX:EVT) also rose today following the release of its full-year results.

EVT posted a statutory $48m loss but said activity picked up in the second half of FY21 as COVID-19 restrictions were eased.

The company is “confident that once restrictions are lifted, the swift and strong rebound experienced in the second half will continue”, CEO Jane Hastings said. Shares in EVT are now only just off their pre-COVID peak above $14.

BIG CAP LOSERS

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Leading the laggards was healthcare company NIB Holdings (ASX:NIB), which released its full-year FY21 results.

The company posted an 84.5% lift in net profit after tax to $160.5m but investors, as NIB shares closed more than 10% lower.