* July Construction spending his 5 1/2 year high
* Dollar General ups Family Dollar bid
* Markit factory activity expands in August
* ISM manufacturing accelerates in August
* Indexes: Dow off 0.1 pct, S&P flat, Nasdaq up 0.27 pct (Updates to market open; adds quote, data)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Sept 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Tuesday as investors digested the latest batch of solid economic reports on the heels of the best monthly performance for the S&P since February.
Financial data firm Markit said its final U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to 57.9 in August from 55.8 in July, marking its highest level since April 2010. A separate report from the Institute for Supply Management on the manufacturing sector rose to 59.0, its highest level since March 2011, from 57.1 the month before.
In addition, construction spending rebounded strongly, as it increased by 1.8 percent to an annual rate of $981.31 billion, the highest level since December 2008.
“The market is probably pricing in stronger numbers on the economic side, but it’s still very much positive,” said James Liu, global market strategist at JPMorgan Funds in Chicago.
“We are expecting to see stronger economic numbers, the market is certainly expecting that, and as long we get them, we can do quite well above 2,000 on the S&P 500.”
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 17.44 points or 0.1 percent, to 17,081.01, the S&P 500 gained 0.07 points or 0 percent, to 2,003.44 and the Nasdaq Composite added 12.46 points or 0.27 percent, to 4,592.73.
The benchmark S&P index gained 3.8 percent in August, its best month since a 4.3 percent climb in February. However, the monthly average volume of 5.24 billion shares traded was the lowest of the year, according to data from BATS Global Markets.
Exelixis shares plunged 52.2 percent to $1.98. The company said on Monday it would cut about 70 percent of its workforce after its experimental prostate cancer drug cabozantinib failed a late-stage study.
Dollar General Corp raised its bid for Family Dollar Stores Inc by 2 percent to $80 per share, or $9.1 billion, and warned it may turn hostile and appeal directly to shareholders if the new offer is rejected. Family Dollar shares gained 0.7 percent to $80.35 while Dollar General advanced 1.2 percent to $64.76.
Compuware jumped 12.6 percent to $10.53 after the business software maker agreed to be bought by private equity investment firm Thoma Bravo LLC in a deal valued at about $2.5 billion.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd said it would buy Prestige Cruises International Inc in a $3.03 billion deal, including debt. Its shares jumped 11.6 percent to $37.18.
Select Income REIT said it would buy office REIT Cole Corporate Income Trust in a $3 billion deal to expand its portfolio in the United States, as shares fell 6.1 percent to $26.20.
Conn’s Inc tumbled 30.2 percent to $31.29 after the retailer posted second-quarter results that missed expectations and gave a full-year outlook below analysts’ forecasts. (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)