* Apollo Education jumps on raised buyout offer
* Baidu falls after China probe
* ISM index slips to 50.8 in April vs 51.8 in March
* Oil prices fall about 2 percent
* Indexes up: Dow 0.38 pct, S&P 0.34 pct, Nasdaq 0.17 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Yashaswini Swamynathan and Tanya Agrawal
May 2 (Reuters) - Wall Street was higher on the first trading day in May on Monday, helped by a rise in financial and consumer discretionary stocks.
Recovering oil prices and an accommodative Federal Reserve have helped the S&P 500 rise 15 percent since February - about 3 percent short of its all-time high.
Investors have been keeping a sharp eye on data after the Fed held monetary policy steady last week and gave no signals that it was in a hurry to tighten further.
Economists polled by Reuters expect two increases this year but futures prices show traders do not expect rates to rise until late 2016, according to CME Group’s FedWatch.
Wall Street closed lower on Friday, with U.S. stocks marking their largest weekly drop in more than two months as corporate earnings continued to disappoint. However, the S&P and Dow managed to close up for April.
“It’s a little bit of a reversal from the last couple of weeks where you had energy, gold, materials leading the market. Now we’re back to the safer plays,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.
“Given how strong we started out, I think we are going to flatten out for the rest of the day and trade sideways.”
At 12:37 p.m. ET (1637 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average was up 67.32 points, or 0.38 percent, at 17,840.96, the S&P 500 was up 6.94 points, or 0.34 percent, at 2,072.24 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 8.32 points, or 0.17 percent, at 4,783.68.
Six of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, with the consumer discretionary index’s 1.07 percent rise leading the gainers.
Amazon’s 2.7 percent rise gave the biggest boost to the S&P and Nasdaq, while Goldman Sachs’ 1.6 percent rise helped the Dow.
Berkshire Hathaway, which was up 0.8 percent at $146.67, bolstered the financial sector.
Data showed that U.S. manufacturing activity rose for the second straight month in April, but at a slightly slower pace.
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity slipped to 50.8 last month from 51.8 in March.
Another report from the Commerce Department showed construction spending rose to an 8-1/2-year high in March.
Crude prices fell about 2.5 percent as data showing higher Middle East oil production and record hedge fund buying sparked profit-taking on last month’s outsized rally.
Baidu fell 7.4 percent to $179.87 after Chinese regulators said they would investigate the company over the death of a university student who had used its search engine to look for treatment for his cancer.
Baker Hughes shares fell 3.3 percent to $46.75 after the company and larger rival Halliburton scrapped a deal to merge. Halliburton rose 2.5 percent to $42.34.
Apollo Education was up 9.6 percent at $8.55 after a group of investors raised their offer to $1.14 billion to buy the for-profit education provider.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,692 to 1,260. On the Nasdaq, 1,410 issues rose and 1,285 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 12 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 43 new highs and 26 new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan and Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D‘Silva)