U.S. stocks were set to open slightly higher on Monday, boosted by merger news and rising metals prices as investors bet on a stronger global economy.

Diversified industrial company Danaher Corp agreed to buy medical diagnostics company Beckman Coulter Inc for about $6.8 billion.

Oil drilling company EnsCo Plc will buy rival Pride International Inc
for about $7.3 billion. The deals provided the latest signs that stock valuations are attractive.

Beckman shares jumped 10 percent before the market's open while Pride added almost 17 percent.

A couple of strong M&A deals are creating a bit of a bid on U.S. equities, said Nick Kalivas, senior equity index analyst at MF Global in Chicago.

Basic materials stocks will be in focus as the price of copper hit a record on concerns about supply and as economic data recently boosted the outlook for demand. Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc shares rose 1.6 percent premarket.

The liquidity backdrop is helpful (for metals prices), MF Global's Kalivas said, but I think there are favorable technicals driven by strong global (manufacturing) numbers.

S&P 500 futures rose 3.6 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 gained 25 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 1.75 points.

UBS raised its 2011 target for the S&P 500 index by 7.5 percent to 1,425 from 1,325, citing an improving outlook for the economy and earnings.

Our upgrade is primarily driven by a re-acceleration in economic data, which should support stronger top- and bottom-line growth, UBS analysts said in a U.S. Equity Strategy note. The S&P 500 ended on Friday at 1,310.87.

More than 70 percent of the S&P 500 companies have reported earnings above estimates so far, according to Thomson Reuters data. Investors expect aggregate earnings rose 37 percent in the last quarter, the highest estimate for that period in more than 10 months.

Health insurer Humana Inc posted a lower quarterly net profit, hurt by expenses, but raised its 2011 profit forecast.

Chesapeake Energy Corp shares rose 3.3 percent to $31.86 premarket as it announced plans to raise $5 billion and trim its heavy debt load.

News that computer hackers had infiltrated the operator of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange could be another blow to investor confidence, as Wall Street works to repair an image with investors and traders dented by last year's flash crash.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's new cabinet holds its first full meeting Monday since a civil uprising started nearly two weeks ago, with no concrete progress in talks with an opposition which demands his immediate exit.

Unrest in Egypt propelled North Sea Brent crude oil futures back above $100 a barrel on worries it could spread to other parts of the Middle East, disrupting energy supplies. Investors have noted a spike in oil prices might become a headwind for the global economy and hurt equity markets.

The S&P 500 <.SPX> posted its best week in nine on Friday as investors rotated into defensive and lagging sectors, with both the Dow Jones <.DJI> and the S&P 500 making new 2 1/2-year highs. Analysts see further gains in store for equity markets as economic growth accelerates.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Kenneth Barry)