US STOCKS-Futures rise ahead of ADP, M&A lifts sentiment

  
 * March ADP report expected to show private job gains
 * Valeant Pharma to buy Cephalon for $5.7 billion
 * Trading volume could be light ahead of quarter end
 * Futures up: Dow 55 pts, S&P 6.7 pts, Nasdaq 15.25 pts
 * For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
 (Adds analyst comment, updates prices)
 By Ryan Vlastelica
 NEW YORK, March 30 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures
rose on Wednesday as merger and acquisition activity lifted
sentiment before data expected to show another month of
private-sector job creation.
 Gains may be limited by uncertainties over Japan's nuclear
power situation and civil unrest in oil-producing regions.
Trading volume has been weak, with Tuesday's the second-lowest
of the year, suggesting shaky investor confidence as the
quarter ends on Thursday.
 Overseas, Japanese stocks hit their highest level since a
post-earthquake sell-off as the yen weakened, while European
shares hit a three-week high on strength in mining shares.
[ID:nL3E7EU0VF] [ID:nLDE72T0PO]
 The ADP employment report, to be released at 8:15 a.m.
[1215 GMT], is expected to show 203,000 private-sector jobs
were created in March, fewer than in February. While the report
doesn't have a high correlation with Friday's closely watched
non-farm payrolls report by the Labor Department, a good ADP
number could increase optimism about the labor market.
 "The ADP number is important, but even if it's positive we
could sell on the news, given that markets are overbought and
the significant decline in volume we've seen," said James
Dailey, portfolio manager of TEAM Asset Strategy Fund in
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
 Canadian drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International
late Tuesday (VRX.TO: Quote, Profile, Research)(VRX.N: Quote, Profile, Research) made an unsolicited bid to buy
Cephalon Inc (CEPH.O: Quote, Profile, Research) for $5.7 billion, sending the stock up 31
percent to $77.10 in premarket trading. For details, see
[ID:nN29299668]
 The bid follows AT&T Inc's (T.N: Quote, Profile, Research) recent proposed purchase
of T-Mobile USA and eBay Inc's (EBAY.O: Quote, Profile, Research) bid for GSI Commerce
(GSIC.O: Quote, Profile, Research), signs that stocks could be viewed as cheap.
 "From a purely market perspective, this is encouraging as
it shows confidence is picking up in corporate America," Dailey
said.
 Dow component DuPont (DD.N: Quote, Profile, Research), the chemical company, extended
its $6 billion takeover bid for Denmark's Danisco (DCO.CO: Quote, Profile, Research) by
four weeks and said shareholders of 6 percent of Danisco's
stock had accepted the offer. [ID:nLDE72T0BE]
 S&P 500 futures (SPc1: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 6.7 points and were above fair
value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account
interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the
contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures (DJc1: Quote, Profile, Research) added 55
points and Nasdaq 100 futures (NDc1: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 15.25 points.
 Family Dollar Stores Inc (FDO.N: Quote, Profile, Research) reported second-quarter
earnings that rose from the prior year and were at the high end
of the company's forecast, which it recently raised.    
[ID:nN29260008].
 Tibco Software Inc (TIBX.O: Quote, Profile, Research) fell 2.2 percent to $25.70
before the opening bell a day after it gave a second-quarter
outlook that implied slowing growth. [ID:nL3E7ET2VM]
 Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research) (TM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Honda Motor Corp
(7267.T: Quote, Profile, Research) (HMC.N: Quote, Profile, Research) took fresh steps to scale back production or
reduce orders of some parts in North America after supplies
were disrupted by the March 11 Japan earthquake.
[ID:nN29258412]
 Strength in energy lifted U.S. stocks on Tuesday as
investors concentrated on adding to winning positions, but
uncertainty kept trading volume light.
 (Editing by Kenneth Barry)

US STOCKS-Futures rise ahead of ADP, M&A lifts sentiment