US STOCKS-Futures rise on hopes for ECB action, merger activity
* S&P 500 just points off milestone 2,000 level
* Roche to buy InterMune for $8.3 billion
* New home sales data due after market opens
* Futures up: Dow 44 pts, S&P 6 pts, Nasdaq 15.5 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Aug 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were modestly higher on Monday, indicating the S&P 500 would open near record levels, amid corporate merger activity and as hopes grew for more monetary stimulus in European markets.
* U.S. investors took cues from Europe, where an index of major shares rose 0.7 percent after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said Friday the ECB was prepared to respond with available tools if inflation dropped further. Investors took this to mean the ECB could start an asset purchase program or adopt other stimulus measures in the coming months, which would boost assets like stocks and bonds.
* Draghi spoke at a global central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen spoke, too, but didn't provide hints on the timing of any interest rate hikes, contributing to a modest equity market decline on Friday.
* InterMune Inc jumped 37 percent to $73.48 in premarket trading after Roche Holding AG agreed to buy the biotechnology company for $8.3 billion in cash. The deal is the latest vote of confidence in the biotech sector, which many - including Yellen - worry is overvalued. Continued...