* Starwood up after Marriott’s higher offer
* IHS up after deal to buy Markit
* Valeant soars on search for new CEO; Ackman to join board
* Dow up 0.08 pct, S&P down 0.05 pct, Nasdaq up 0.05 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Abhiram Nandakumar
March 21 (Reuters) - Wall Street flip-flopped between meager losses and gains on Monday as investors sought fresh trading catalysts after a five-week rally that helped stocks recover from a rout this year.
The rally pushed the Dow and the S&P 500 into positive territory for the year last week.
“Our market is really resting on the back of the dovish statement from the Fed and waiting to see where we are headed with the economic data,” said Lisa Kopp, head of traditional investments at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.
The U.S. Federal Reserve’s accommodative move last week to cut the number of expected rate hikes this year to two was the latest among a slew of measures by central banks to support growth and calm the turmoil in global financial markets.
Kopp said that while the U.S. economy could continue to recover moderately, the market would react to negative surprises in European and Chinese data.
“A lot of it is going to be driven by how the data actually comes through in the next few weeks,” she said.
At 12:38 a.m. ET the Dow Jones industrial average was up 13.7 points, or 0.08 percent, at 17,616, the S&P 500 was down 0.93 points, or 0.05 percent, at 2,048.65 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 2.31 points, or 0.05 percent, at 4,797.96.
The S&P energy sector was down 0.74 percent and materials fell 0.63 percent. Chevron was down 1.6 percent at $96.12.
Crude prices edged up despite uncertainty about a plan to freeze production and signs of U.S. producers increasing drilling activity.
Sherwin-Williams fell 3.9 percent to $277.45 after it agreed to buy rival Valspar. Valspar shares were up 24.4 percent at $104.29.
Shares of Starwood were up 4 percent at $83.82 after the Sheraton hotel owner accepted a higher offer from Marriott that beat an all-cash offer by a group led by China’s Anbang Insurance Group. Marriott was down 1.2 percent at $72.30.
IHS was up 7.1 percent at $118.57 after the U.S. business research provider said it would buy London-based Markit in an all-stock deal valued at about $5.9 billion. Markit’s Nasdaq-listed shares were up 10.8 percent at $32.67.
Valeant soared 9 percent to $29.40, after the beleaguered drugmaker said it had started a search for a new Chief Executive and that Bill Ackman had joined the board.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,636 to 1,283. On the Nasdaq, 1,393 issues fell and 1,338 rose.
The S&P 500 index showed 13 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 31 new highs and nine new lows. (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)