5 things to know before the stock market opens Friday, March 31

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 29, 2023. 

Brendan Mcdermid | Reuters

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

1. End of the quarter

2. Indicted

New York grand jury indicts Trump in hush money payment case

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

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

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

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