US STOCKS-Wall St to rise on ECB hopes, merger activity
* Hillshire Brands shares jump after Pilgrim's Pride bid
* Cisco shares up on Deutsche Bank upgrade, price target hike
* Aeropostale jumps after it secures $150 mln credit facility
* Futures up: Dow 72 pts, S&P 8 pts, Nasdaq 18 pts (Updates prices, adds data)
NEW YORK, May 27 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to rise at the open on Tuesday supported by merger activity and as expectations for rates cuts by the European Central Bank stoked bids for equities even after the benchmark S&P 500 index closed at a record on Friday.
* ECB chief Mario Draghi said on Monday the bank must be "particularly watchful" for any negative price spiral in the euro zone. That added to suggestions from other ECB policymakers that the bank was ready to cut rates next week to counter low inflation and weak lending in the euro zone, keeping asset purchases as an option.
* Data was also supportive of equities. Orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods unexpectedly rose in April even as a measure of business capital spending plans dropped, and home prices rose in March more than expected.
* Other U.S. data due later in the day include Markit's final services sector PMI for May at 9:45 a.m. (1345 GMT) and the Conference Board's measure of consumer confidence at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT).
* Shares of packaged food company Hillshire Brands jumped 21 percent in premarket trading after poultry producer Pilgrim's Pride offered to buy Hillshire in a deal valued at $6.4 billion. Shares of Pinnacle Foods, which is in the process of being acquired by Hillshire, fell 6.2 percent, while Pilgrim's Pride added 4.4 percent.
* S&P 500 e-mini futures rose 8 points and fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract, indicated a higher open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures rose 72 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 18 points.
* Pfizer shares edged up 0.8 percent in premarket trading a day after the U.S. drugmaker walked away from its bid to buy AstraZeneca for nearly 70 billion pounds ($118 billion). U.S.-traded AstraZeneca shares dropped 1.8 percent.
* Aeropostale shares jumped 13 percent premarket after the apparel retailer secured a $150 million credit facility from affiliates of private equity firm Sycamore Partners, in what could be a lifeline for the struggling company.
* Cisco Systems shares rose 1.7 percent premarket after Deutsche Bank raised its rating on the stock to "buy" and raised its price target to $30 from $25.
* BioCryst Pharmaceuticals shares added 22 percent premarket after mid-stage trial results showed its experimental drug to treat a rare immune disorder was found effective in reducing attacks related to the condition. (Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)