US STOCKS-Futures rise, S&P 500 near record
* Hillshire to buy Pinnacle Foods for $6.6 billion
* IBM CEO says company is facing a "rocky time": NYT
* Ukraine situation remains in focus after referendum
* Futures up: Dow 54 pts, S&P 7.6 pts, Nasdaq 20 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, May 12 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose on Monday, putting the S&P 500 within striking distance of record levels, though geopolitical concerns in the Ukraine could cap gains.
* In Ukraine, pro-Russian rebels voted in favor of self-rule in eastern regions of the country in a referendum dismissed by Kiev and Western governments as illegal. Separately, the European Union is set to step up pressure on Russia by taking steps to extend sanctions to companies, as well as individuals.
* In the latest deal news, Hillshire Brands Co agreed to buy Pinnacle Foods Inc for about $6.6 billion while the board of Allergan rejected an unsolicited proposal from Valeant, saying it significantly undervalued the company.
* Separately, the head of research at Pfizer Inc pressed the case for the company's plan to buy AstraZeneca for $106 billion, saying a deal wouldn't disrupt drug research. U.S. shares of Astra rose 1 percent in premarket trading. Continuación...