* Dow, S&P 500 hit intraday records in quiet session
* Sapient, Covance rally on heavy volume; both to be bought
* ISM Manufacturing data tops expectations in October
* Dow down 0.18 pct, S&P 500 down 0.08 pct, Nasdaq up 0.05 pct
By Yasmeen Abutaleb
NEW YORK, Nov 3 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and the Dow touched intraday records on Monday before pulling back to trade close to unchanged, while strength in semiconductors boosted the Nasdaq.
Equities have been strong of late, with the Dow last week posting its biggest weekly gain since January 2013 and the S&P coming off its biggest two-week jump since December 2011. The gains have largely come on the back of strong quarterly results, which have eased concerns over how corporations are faring in an uncertain global growth environment.
“We got back to the highs in the S&P 500 and Dow rather quickly, so I think you’re running into some resistance and profit-taking,” said Stephen Carl, principal and head of U.S. Equity Trading at The Williams Capital Group.
While the market’s momentum is to the upside, near-term trading may be quieter as earnings season draws to a close. With results in from 73 percent of companies, 75.4 percent reported earnings above analysts’ expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, above the long-term average of 63 percent.
General Motors Corp fell 0.9 percent to $31.12 after October sales missed expectations.
In deal news, Sapient Corp rose 42 percent to $24.58 on heavy volume after Publicis agreed to buy the digital ad company for $3.7 billion in cash.
Covance Inc jumped 25.6 percent to $100.34 after Laboratory Corp of America Holdings agreed to buy the company for $6.1 billion. Laboratory Corp fell 7.8 percent to $100.81 as the S&P’s biggest decliner.
In the latest economic data, construction spending fell 0.4 percent in September, below the 0.7 percent growth that had been expected. Readings on manufacturing were mixed, with the Institute for Supply Management’s index unexpectedly rising in October, while Markit’s final reading showed its lowest rate of growth since July.
At 2:55 p.m. the Dow Jones industrial average fell 32.05 points, or 0.18 percent, to 17,358.47, the S&P 500 lost 1.7 points, or 0.08 percent, to 2,016.35 and the Nasdaq Composite added 2.18 points, or 0.05 percent, to 4,632.92.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,549 to 1,489, for a 1.04-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,490 issues fell and 1,179 advanced for a 1.26-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 71 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 125 new highs and 34 new lows. (Editing by Nick Zieminski and Meredith Mazzilli)