* 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 0.09 pct, S&P 500 up 0.15 pct, Nasdaq up 0.38 pct
By Yasmeen Abutaleb
NEW YORK, Nov 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Monday 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 global growth environment.
“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.
General Motors Corp fell 1 percent to $31.10 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 25.4 percent to $100.19 after Laboratory Corp of America Holdings agreed to buy the company for $6.1 billion. Laboratory Corp fell 8.2 percent to $100.46 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 12:54 p.m. the Dow Jones industrial average fell 16.41 points, or 0.09 percent, to 17,374.11, the S&P 500 gained 3.09 points, or 0.15 percent, to 2,021.14 and the Nasdaq Composite added 17.49 points, or 0.38 percent, to 4,648.23.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,711 to 1,276, for a 1.34-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,345 issues rose and 1,248 fell for a 1.08-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 68 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 119 new highs and 25 new lows. (Editing by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)