US STOCKS-Futures rise after China data; Syria concerns remain
* China exports top expectations
* Jacobs Engineering to buy Sinclair Knight
* Smithfield cleared for acquisition
* Futures up: Dow 3.3 pts, S&P 25 pts, Nasdaq 11.75 pts
NEW YORK, Sept 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures advanced on Monday in the wake of upbeat economic data from China, though concerns remained about a potential strike against Syria.
* China reported its exports had grown by 7.2 percent in August, beating market expectations for a 6 percent increase, while consumer inflation held steady in August.
* Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied that he was behind a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians, as the White House pressed ahead Sunday with the uphill effort of persuading Congress to approve a military strike to punish Assad. The Obama administration faces a test vote set for Wednesday in the U.S. Senate.
* The S&P 500 has risen for four straight sessions and is up 16 percent for the year, largely driven by the $85-billion monthly bond purchases of the Fed, aimed at stimulating the economy.
* Economists at a majority of U.S. primary dealers expect the Fed to announce at a policy meeting in less than two weeks that it pare back its bond purchases, according to a Reuters poll.
* S&P 500 futures rose 3.3 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 gained 25 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 11.75 points.
* Jacobs Engineering Group Inc, one of the world's largest construction consulting firms, said Sunday it would buy Australia's Sinclair Knight Merz for about A$1.3 billion ($1.2 billion) in cash.
* The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment has cleared the way for Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd's proposed $4.7 billion acquisition of Smithfield Foods Inc, the companies said late Friday.
* Delta Air Lines Inc will join the S&P 500 index after the close of trading Sept. 10, replacing BMC Software , Standard & Poor's said on Friday. Delta shares rose 4.6 percent to $20.80 in premarket trading.
* European shares fell as disruptions to business in the Middle East hurt oil firm BG Group and the threat of a spike in crude prices fueled profit taking on construction firm Bouygues.
* Upbeat Chinese trade and inflation data lifted Chinese shares to three-month highs and boosted regional shares on Monday, while Japanese shares rallied after Tokyo won its bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.