By Angela Moon
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks ended little changed on Monday, with indexes hovering near record levels as concerns about a correction cut earlier gains that had been prompted by news about a flurry of acquisitions.
The Dow and the S&P 500 briefly hit all-time intraday highs.
Early in the session, investors' sentiment was brightened by a slew of deal news, including Yahoo Inc's acquisition of Tumblr.
Among the day's top gainers were solar companies after shares of JA Solar Holdings Co Ltd soared following an unexpected rise in revenue and a quarterly loss that was far smaller than expected.
Energy stocks were the day's top gainers in the S&P 500 while consumer staples were the biggest underperformers. The S&P energy sector index <.SPNY> rose 1.3 percent. In contrast, the S&P consumer staples index <.SPLRCS> fell 1 percent.
Earlier, the Dow climbed to an all-time intraday high at 15,391.84, while the S&P 500 edged up to a new intraday record high at 1,672.84. Both major indexes are up about 17 percent for the year so far.
"Today is definitely a slow period in terms of news or economic data, and there isn't a catalyst to really move higher or lower," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.
"There are people scared by the sharpness and the length of this rally, which is totally understandable. But there are still those who are afraid to not invest and miss the rally."
The S&P 500 is up nearly 1,000 points from its low in March 2009. And more than 38 percent of the stocks hit a 52-week high within the S&P 500 last week - the highest percentage since at least 1990.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slipped 19.12 points, or 0.12 percent, to 15,335.28 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> shed 1.18 points, or 0.07 percent, to finish at 1,666.29. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> declined 2.53 points, or 0.07 percent, to end at 3,496.43.
Earlier, the Nasdaq touched a fresh 52-week intraday high at 3,509.41.
Yahoo Inc will buy blogging service Tumblr for $1.1 billion cash, giving the Internet pioneer a much needed social media platform to reach a younger generation of users and breathe new life into its ailing brand. Yahoo shares rose 0.2 percent to $26.58.
Shares of JA Solar jumped 70.4 percent to $9.56. It focus on margins over volume paid off as the Chinese solar products maker halved its operating loss in the first quarter by selling more panels in high-margin Japan.
Other solar companies' shares such as China Sunergy Co Ltd surged 50 percent to $2.52 and LDK Solar Co Ltd shot up 20.4 percent to $1.83. Yingli Green Energy Holdings Co climbed 13.1 percent to $3.10.
In other deal news, Actavis rose 1.3 percent to $127.15 after the company said it will acquire Warner Chilcott Plc in a stock-for-stock transaction valued at $5 billion. Warner Chilcott gained 2 percent to $19.60.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and Plains Exploration & Production said they would pay shareholders more in dividends if they approved Freeport's roughly $6 billion takeover offer for Plains. Plains shares leaped 7.4 percent to $48.94, while Freeport's stock gained 0.6 percent to $32.88.
Wall Street got more feedback from the Fed on Monday with some comments from Charles Evans, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Evans said the U.S. Federal Reserve could keep up its current level of bond-buying stimulus, but could end it abruptly in the autumn if by then it was sure that the labor market was on a solid footing.
Investors will get more comments from the Fed when Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies before a congressional committee on Wednesday.
The beginning of the end of the Fed's massive bond-buying program, which has given strong support to stock gains, might come sooner than many investors think if recent gains in the U.S. labor market hold.
The Fed will also release minutes from its most recent policy-setting meeting on Wednesday. The minutes will be parsed for signs of the Fed's direction on monetary stimulus.
Volume was roughly 6 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, slightly lower than the year-to-date average daily closing volume of about 6.34 billion.
Advancers outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a ratio of 17 to 13. On the Nasdaq, nearly 14 stocks rose for every 11 that fell.
(Editing by Jan Paschal)