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5 Things to Know Before the Stock Market Opens Friday

Brendan Mcdermid | Reuters
  • The first quarter wraps up.
  • Donald Trump has been indicted.
  • Virgin Orbit is in trouble.

Here are the most important news items that investors need to start their trading day:

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1. End of the quarter

The first quarter comes to an end at Friday's closing bell, and stocks are looking pretty OK, all things considered. The Nasdaq, which was walloped last year as the Federal Reserve kept hiking rates, is up nearly 15% for the three-month period, while the broad S&P 500 is up more than 5%. The Dow, however, is down nearly 1% for the quarter, although so far it's advanced in March. On Friday, investors will chew over the Fed's favored inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures index (it rose less than expected), as well as personal income and consumer spending data. And, since it's the end of the quarter, it's time to get ready for earnings season. Big banks start reporting two weeks from Friday. Follow live markets updates.

2. Indicted

Donald Trump, the former president and reality TV star, was indicted by a grand jury in his native city of New York. It marks the first time a former U.S. president has been charged with a crime. It wasn't immediately clear how many charges Trump will face in a case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, as the indictment remained under seal. (Other outlets reported that Trump could be facing two dozen or more counts.) Trump, who is the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has repeatedly called the investigation – which centered around a hush money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election – a politically motivated "witch hunt." Trump could face charges from three other criminal probes, too: An election interference investigation in Georgia, and special counsel Jack Smith's investigations of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and Trump's removal of classified documents from the White House.

3. Into a black hole

Greg Robinson / Virgin Orbit
The company's 747 jet "Cosmic Girl" releases a LauncherOne rocket in mid-air for the first time during a drop test in July 2019.

Virgin Orbit is just about finished. The once-promising space company, which worked to launch rockets from repurposed 747 jets, laid off nearly all of its staff and hit the pause button on operations for the foreseeable future. Virgin Orbit, which is majority-owned by celebrity billionaire Sir Richard Branson, failed to find a last-minute injection of cash in order to hold off its doom. The company's shares have fallen steadily since it went public through a SPAC merger in December 2021. As of Thursday's close, they were worth 34 cents each. And they're primed to go even lower Friday.

4. Lightning price surges

Electric Ford F-150 Lightning
Andrew Evers / CNBC
Electric Ford F-150 Lightning

Ford is again raising prices for its flagship EV, the F-150 Lightning pickup. The vehicle is the centerpiece of Ford's attempt to transition its business toward an all-electric lineup. The lower-cost Lightning Pro, intended for fleets, will now start at under $60,000, while the mid-level truck's starting price jumps to just under $76,000. The starting price for the Lightning's top-line trim increases slightly to just over $98,000. The price hikes come just as the Lightning returned to production, following a fire in a yet-to-be-delivered vehicle early in February. Lightning shipments are also resuming this week, the company told CNBC.

5. Turkey OKs Finland's NATO membership

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (L) deliver a joint press conference held after their meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on March 17, 2023.
Adem Altan | Afp | Getty Images
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (L) deliver a joint press conference held after their meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on March 17, 2023.

Finland, which borders Russia, is joining NATO. Turkey's parliament gave the final approval Thursday, setting the scene for even more tensions with Russia. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has often referred to NATO, led by the United States, as a major threat to its security. Western nations pushed for NATO's expansion after Russia invaded Ukraine over a year ago, heightening the possibility that war could spill over into NATO territory in Europe. An attack on one country in the alliance is considered an attack on all of them. Sweden's bid for NATO membership, however, remains in limbo. Hungary and Turkey are the holdouts. Follow live war updates.

– CNBC's Hakyung Kim, Dan Mangan, Michael Sheetz, John Rosevear and Natasha Turak contributed to this report.

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