* Starwood up after Marriott’s higher offer
* IHS up after deal to buy Markit
* Futures down: Dow 14 pts, S&P 2 pts, Nasdaq 5 pts (Adds details, comment, updates prices)
By Abhiram Nandakumar
March 21 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to open little changed on Monday as investors sought fresh catalysts for stocks to add to a five-week rally sparked by the central bank action, recovering oil prices and encouraging economic data.
Crude prices slightly rose, even as uncertainty remains about major exporters reaching an agreement to freeze production and signs of U.S. producers increasing drilling activity.
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.
The S&P 500 on Friday turned positive for the first time in 2016, closing up 0.25 percent, recovering from a more than 10 percent fall earlier in the year.
“While ... there’s no obvious profit driver out there, we haven’t gotten any news to derail the rally we’ve had since the Feb. 11 lows,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.
At 8:50 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 14 points, or 0.08 percent, with 24,561 contracts changing hands. S&P 500 e-minis were down 2 points, or 0.1 percent, with 176,832 contracts traded. Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 5 points, or 0.11 percent, on volume of 24,320 contracts.
Investors will now look for signs that the U.S. economy continues to recover, with expectations for corporate earnings improving and commodity prices edging up, even as weak global conditions casts a pall on sentiment.
Data on Monday includes U.S. existing home sales, which are expected to have dropped 2.2 percent in February. The report is due at 10 a.m. ET (1400 GMT).
Shares of Starwood were up 3.4 percent at $83.28 premarket 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 1.4 percent at $72.10.
IHS was up 2.1 percent at $113 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 5.1 percent at $31.
Intel was down 1.5 percent at $32.20 and Transocean was down 2.3 percent at $10.53 after rating downgrades. (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)