* Petsmart to be acquired by private equity consortium
* Energy shares outperform as traders seek bargains
* Indexes off: Dow 0.1 pct, S&P 0.1 pct, Nasdaq 0.4 pct (Updates to morning trading, adds comment)
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Dec 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks dipped on Monday as initial gains vanished, as did a brief rebound in crude oil prices.
Brent and U.S. crude had briefly rebounded after having hit fresh 5-1/2 year lows earlier in the day, only to turn lower again.
Still, energy shares were the top performers of the benchmark S&P 500 index as investors sought bargains among the bigger names. Four of the largest five energy sector components in terms of market capitalization were up on the day.
“You had some traders take profits on the early gains once oil moved to negative,” said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Energy stocks “have dropped so much, you see bottom fishing in the big names but smaller companies continue to move lower,” he said, referring to a search for value among bigger stocks.
At 10:48 a.m. EST (1548 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average fell 11.85 points, or 0.07 percent, to 17,268.98, the S&P 500 lost 1.38 points, or 0.07 percent, to 2,000.95 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 17.33 points, or 0.37 percent, to 4,636.27.
U.S. manufacturing output recorded its largest increase in nine months in November as production expanded across the board, pointing to underlying strength in the economy. The New York Federal Reserve’s gauge of manufacturing in the area turned negative in December for the first time in almost two years.
Shares of pet supply retailer PetSmart rose 4.2 percent to $80.96 after it agreed to be bought by a private equity consortium led by BC Partners Ltd for $8.7 billion, in the largest leveraged buyout of the year.
Workers at Amazon warehouses in Germany began a three-day strike for better pay and work conditions as the online retailer raced to ensure holiday orders are delivered on time. Amazon shares were down 1.5 percent at $302.72.
Nasdaq said Friday it would add American Airlines Group, Electronic Arts and Lam Research to the Nasdaq 100, and remove Expedia, F5 Networks and Maxim Integrated Products. Changes are scheduled to take effect Dec. 22 before the market opens.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,812 to 1,078, for a 1.68-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,570 issues fell and 995 advanced for a 1.58-to-1 ratio.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 10 new 52-week highs and 16 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 29 new highs and 84 new lows.
Editing by Bernadette Baum