* Chinese factory activity contracts at fastest pace since 2012
* Twitter jumps after rumors of private equity deal
* Indexes up: Dow 0.2 pct, S&P 0.3 pct, Nasdaq 0.4 pct (Updates to late afternoon)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
Feb 1 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher in late Monday trading, reversing earlier losses, helped by strong gains in Facebook and Alphabet.
Internet giant Alphabet, which reports results after the close, was up 1.5 percent at $772.98. Toymaker Mattel, down 2.3 percent at $26.94, is also due to report after the close.
Twitter was up 6.1 percent at $17.82 after talk of a private equity deal.
Stocks had been lower earlier in the day as weak Chinese economic data added to concerns about a global slowdown and oil prices resumed their slide. The manufacturing sector in the world’s second-largest economy contracted in January at the fastest pace since 2012.
“If you see strength in the last hour, that’s very bullish,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.
“What this is telling me is that maybe we don’t want to be short going into a period of time when maybe the Fed is backing off of its rate increases.”
Slammed by collapsing oil prices, stocks have had a volatile start to the year. Coming off the worst January since 2009, the S&P 500 is down more than 5 percent for the year.
Traders now expect the Fed to scale back the number of rate hikes this year. They are pricing in only a 17-percent chance that the Fed will raise rates in March, according to CME Group’s FedWatch.
At 3:26 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was up 35.99 points, or 0.22 percent, to 16,502.29, the S&P 500 gained 5.66 points, or 0.29 percent, to 1,945.9 and the Nasdaq Composite added 20.30 points, or 0.44 percent, to 4,634.26.
Fourth-quarter corporate reporting season is well under way, with S&P 500 companies, on average, expected to post a 4.1 percent drop in earnings, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Chipotle Mexican Grill was up 4.9 percent at $475.27. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said E.coli outbreaks that affected the burrito chain’s customers last year appeared to be over. (additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Don Sebastian and Nick Zieminski)