US STOCKS-Futures signal higher open after ADP jobs gains

  
 * Private employers add 201,000 jobs in March ADP report
 * Valeant Pharma to buy Cephalon for $5.7 billion
 * Trading volume could be light ahead of quarter end
 * Futures up: Dow 50 pts, S&P 6.3 pts, Nasdaq 17 pts
 * For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
 (Updates with ADP report)
 By Ryan Vlastelica
 NEW YORK, March 30 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures
pointed to a higher open on Wednesday as data showed private
employers added jobs in a sign of economic improvement and
acquisition activity lifted sentiment.
 Private employers created 201,000 jobs in March, according
to ADP Employer Services, a rise that was in line with
expectations. For details, see [ID:nEAP102200]
 The report by the payrolls processor is closely watched for
insight into the health of the labor market, although it has
little correlation with the government's broader non-farm
payrolls report due on Friday.
 ADP "shows that the labor recovery continues at a
reasonable pace," said David Katz, chief investment officer at
Matrix Asset Advisors in New York, adding that "the improving
labor market should be a buffer against weak areas" of the
economy.
 In the latest M&A activity, Canadian drugmaker Valeant
Pharmaceuticals International on 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 29 percent to $75.97 in premarket
trading while U.S.-listed shares of Valeant rose 16 percent to
$51.40. [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.
 "We expect to see acceleration in merger activity, which we
think is a reasonable way for companies to redeploy cash and
accelerate long-term growth," Katz said.
 Chemical company and Dow component DuPont (DD.N: Quote, Profile, Research) extended
its $6 billion takeover bid for Denmark's Danisco (DCO.CO: Quote, Profile, Research) by
four weeks. DuPont shares rose 0.8 percent to $55 in light
premarket trading. [ID:nLDE72T0BE]
 S&P 500 futures (SPc1: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 6.3 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 50
points and Nasdaq 100 futures (NDc1: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 17 points.
 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 Monday and Tuesday posting
the lowest and second lowest days of the year, respectively,
suggesting shaky investor confidence before the quarter ends.
 The S&P is currently up 4.9 percent in the first quarter,
based on Tuesday's close.
 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. The stock
rose 1.8 percent to $53.35 in premarket trading.
[ID:nN29260008].
 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 Japan's earthquake. [ID:nN29258412]
 U.S.-listed shares of Toyota rose 1.1 percent in premarket
trading.
 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]
 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 signal higher open after ADP jobs gains