5 Things to Know Before the Stock Market Opens

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Investors will be closely watching Consumer Price Index data that’s due to be released this morning, with expectations that figures will show overall inflation accelerating while the important “core” inflation measure slows down; shares of Delta Air Lines (DAL) are rising after a first-quarter earnings beat; Fitch Ratings downgrades its outlook for China to “negative” from “stable,” citing increasing risks to the country’s public finances; shares of Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) are rising as the tech giant nears a $2 trillion market capitalization; and precious metals gold and silver keep rising on safe-haven buying. U.S. stock futures are inching higher ahead of the CPI reading. Here’s what investors need to know today.

1. CPI Expected to Post Mixed Signals After Recent Inflation Readings Ran Hot

Consumer price data for March, scheduled for release at 8:30 a.m. ET, will help set the tone for the trading day as investors look for clues about when the Federal Reserve could start cutting interest rates. Economists expect the reading to be mixed and still above the Fed’s 2% annual inflation target. Recent inflation readings, including the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, have come in hotter than expected, which has led some central bank officials to adjust their expectations for when and how many rate cuts there may be this year. The consensus forecast among economists is for the CPI to have risen 3.5% since last March, an acceleration from the 3.2% annual inflation rate in February, according to a survey of economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Falling prices of used cars are likely to help the all-important “core” inflation measure, which excludes food and energy. The consensus forecast calls for core prices to have risen 0.3% in March, versus a 0.4% gain in February.

2.  Delta Shares Rise After Q1 Earnings Beat

Shares of Delta Air Lines (DAL) were up 4% about two hours before the opening bell, after the carrier posted first-quarter revenue of $13.75 billion, beating the $13.15 billion consensus analyst estimate compiled by Visible Alpha. Delta reported adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of 45 cents, topping analysts’ expectation of 36 cents. Its passenger load factor—the percentage of available seating capacity that is filled with passengers—during Q1 was higher on-year, at 83%, versus 81%, reflecting increased traffic. The airline also forecast second-quarter earnings of $2.20 to $2.50 per share, again beating analysts’ expectations. “Growth is normalizing and we are in a period of optimization, with a focus on restoring our most profitable core hubs and delivering efficiency gains,” CFO Dan Janki said in the earnings release.

3. Fitch Cuts China Outlook as Real Estate Downturn Hurts Public Finances

Fitch Ratings downgraded its outlook for China to “negative” from “stable,” citing increasing risks to the country’s public finances as it moves away from an economy reliant on property. The economy has been suffering from a prolonged real estate slump and a rising fiscal deficit. The downgraded view follows a similar move by ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service in December, which cut its outlook on China’s sovereign credit rating to negative. China’s Finance Ministry reportedly said it was “disappointed” by Fitch’s decision, arguing that it didn’t reflect the fiscal benefits of Beijing’s attempts to spur economic growth. Separately, shares of Alibaba Group Holdings (BABA) are rising 3% in premarket trading as the Chinese e-commerce giant’s co-founder Jack Ma reportedly wrote a memo to employees that praised the company’s top leadership and ongoing restructuring.

4. Alphabet Nears $2T Market Value on Google’s AI Product Bonanza

Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) shares are rising in premarket trading as the tech giant nears a $2 trillion market cap following its Cloud Next keynote presentation Tuesday that opened its three-day conference and detailed a slew of artificial intelligence (AI) offerings. Expanding its partnership with Nvidia (NVDA), Google said that Blackwell, Nvidia’s latest and most capable AI system, will be available to cloud customers in early 2025; unveiled a custom chip; and said its latest AI model, Gemini 1.5 Pro, is now available in more than 180 countries.

5. Precious Metals Continue to Shine 

Gold and silver are rising in early trading, holding their recent multi-year highs on the back of safe-haven buying. Gold could climb to $3,000/oz by next year, Bank of America analysts said recently, driven higher by investors seeking to hedge geopolitical risk and strong demand from central banks, especially China, and could get an even bigger boost if interest rates fall later this year. Chinese retail investors have been big buyers of gold amid the downturn in domestic stocks and real estate. Silver (SILVER) prices are also rising and have gained more than gold this month, fueled by demand in an expanding economy for its use in industrial applications from chip manufacturing to solar panel production. In addition, gold and silver, like other precious metals, remain supported by their finite supply.