* Consumer spending falls for second straight month
* Manufacturing data expected from Markit, ISM
* NXP Semi to buy Freescale Semi
* HP to buy Aruba Networks
* Indexes up: Dow 0.22 pct, S&P 0.11 pct, Nasdaq 0.31 pct (Updates to market open)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, March 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks little changed on Monday, on the heels of the S&P 500's best month in more than three years, as data showed consumer spending remained soft in January and ahead of a report on the manufacturing sector.
U.S. consumer spending fell for a second month in January, likely as lower gasoline prices continued to weigh on receipts at service stations, while personal income fell just short of expectations, showing a rise of 0.3 percent.
"Basically mixed, income up and spending down, inflation basically not a problem but up from the last time," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
"Once the market digests this mixed bag of economic numbers, we will probably see the market attempt to move higher later in the session."
At 9:45 a.m. (1445 GMT), data will be released on the manufacturing sector by financial data firm Markit, following shortly afterwards by the Institute for Supply Management's reading on the manufacturing sector at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT).
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 39.7 points, or 0.22 percent, to 18,172.4, the S&P 500 gained 2.33 points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,106.83 and the Nasdaq Composite added 15.29 points, or 0.31 percent, to 4,978.82.
Major Wall Street indexes dipped on Friday, but the Dow Industrials and S&P 500 still managed their biggest monthly gains since October 2011, while the Nasdaq notched its best month since January 2012. The Nasdaq is within striking distance of the 5,000 mark and record highs set in March 2000.
Chip maker NXP Semiconductors NV has agreed to buy smaller peer Freescale Semiconductor Ltd and merge operations in a deal valuing the combined company at over $40 billion. NXP shares jumped 14 percent to $96.78 while Freescale advanced 9 percent to $39.35.
Lumber Liquidators shares were halted after a report by television news program "60 Minutes" said the retailer of hardwood flooring in North America sold flooring with higher levels of formaldehyde than permitted under California's health and safety standards.
Boston Scientific Corp said it will acquire Endo International Plc's American Medical Systems urology portfolio for up to $1.65 billion. Boston Scientific edged up 0.1 percent while Endo gained 4.4 percent to $89.33.
Cardinal Health said on Monday that it would buy Johnson & Johnson's Cordis vascular technology unit for $1.9 billion and the acquisition would boost 2017 earnings by 20 cents per share. Cardinal Health rose 1.7 percent to $89.49 and JNJ added 0.3 percent to $102.78.
Hewlett-Packard said it would buy Wi-Fi network gear maker Aruba Networks for about $2.7 billion in cash. Aruba Networks slipped 1.7 percent to $24.40 while HP advanced 0.3 percent to $34.95.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,273 to 1,245, for a 1.02-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,259 issues rose and 898 fell for a 1.40-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 5 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 23 new highs and 8 new lows.
Editing by Bernadette Baum