* Starwood up after Marriott’s higher offer
* IHS up after deal to buy Markit
* Dow down 0.06 pct, S&P down 0.07 pct, Nasdaq up 0.03 pct (Updates to open)
By Abhiram Nandakumar
March 21 (Reuters) - Wall Street was 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 rose slightly, 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 9:38 a.m. ET (1339 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 10.62 points, or 0.06 percent, at 17,591.68, the S&P 500 was down 1.44 points, or 0.07 percent, at 2,048.14 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 1.25 points, or 0.03 percent, at 4,796.90.
The S&P energy sector was down 0.74 percent, while financials led the gainers, rising 0.22 percent.
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 4 percent at $83.76 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 $72.15.
IHS was up 6.4 percent at $117.65 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 7 percent at $31.56.
Nike was up 1.6 percent at $63.99 after JP Morgan raised its price target and added the stock to its focus list, replacing Lululemon, which fell 3.8 percent to $60.09.
Valeant was up 5 percent at $28.39, after the beleaguered drugmaker said it had started a search for a new Chief Executive and that Bill Ackman had joined the board.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,449 to 1,171. On the Nasdaq, 1,170 issues fell and 1,119 rose.
The S&P 500 index showed four new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 10 new highs and one new low. (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)