* 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 0.2 pct, S&P 500 up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.4 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Nov 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Monday, with investors mostly taking a pause following a sharp rally on Friday, but both the S&P 500 and the Dow inched up to intraday records, 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 growth environment, as well as stimulative actions from central banks.
“The bull market may be old and wrinkly, but it is still alive and there’s nowhere else for investors to really go besides U.S. equities,” said Paul Schatz, president and chief investment officer at Heritage Capital in Woodbridge, Connecticut.
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.
“For the first time in a long time, I do not believe that a rising tide will lift all ships,” Schatz said. “We’re now at a stage where rallies will get narrower and narrower, meaning sector selection is key.”
General Motors Corp fell 0.8 percent to $31.16 after October sales missed expectations.
In deal news, Sapient Corp rose 42 percent to $24.60 on heavy volume after Publicis agreed to buy the digital ad company for $3.7 billion in cash.
Covance Inc jumped 26 percent to $100.40 after Laboratory Corp of America Holdings agreed to buy the company for $6.1 billion. Laboratory Corp fell 7.3 percent to $101.40 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 11:57 a.m. (1657 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average fell 25.76 points, or 0.15 percent, to 17,364.76, the S&P 500 gained 2.23 points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,020.28 and the Nasdaq Composite added 18.64 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,649.38.
Both the Dow and S&P 500 hit intraday records at their session highs. The Nasdaq was boosted by semiconductors, with the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index up 0.8 percent. Micron Tech rose 2 percent to $33.76.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,662 to 1,288, for a 1.29-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,416 issues rose and 1,151 fell for a 1.23-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 67 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 111 new highs and 24 new lows. (Editing by Nick Zieminski)