5 Things to Know Before the Stock Market Opens Friday

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Here are the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:

1. Stock futures fall on Ukraine nuclear plant worries

Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures dropped nearly 1% after Russia attacked, caused a fire and took over Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine early Friday. The U.S. government also reported stronger-than-expected February jobs growth before the opening bell on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were already tracking for weekly declines. All three stock benchmarks fell Thursday, with Nasdaq leading the way lower with a nearly 1.6% retreat. The Nasdaq fell deeper into correction territory, measured by drops of 10% or more from recent highs. The Dow and S&P 500 teetered on the edge of corrections.

2. February payrolls rose a surprisingly strong 678,000

The U.S. economy created 678,000 nonfarm jobs in February, the Labor Department said Friday morning. That was a much bigger increase than economists had predicted. The unemployment rate dipped to 3.8%, a slightly steeper-than-forecast decline. In a sign that inflation may be cooling, wages last month rose 5.1% year over year, which was well below estimates.

The jobs release is the final monthly report before the Federal Reserve meets March 15 and 16. The markets expect multiple interest rate hikes this year, starting this month. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said as much before a House panel Wednesday, when he delivered his semiannual economic assessment on Capitol Hill.

3. Bond yields dip, U.S. oil prices rise on Russia-Ukraine conflict

Investors sought the perceived safety of bonds Friday ahead of the jobs report on concerns about the escalating fighting in Ukraine. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield, which moves inversely to price, fell to around 1.78%. The 10-year yield on Wednesday saw its biggest one-session jump since March 2020.

U.S. oil prices jumped Friday — but not as high as the previous day's near 14-year high of more than $116 per barrel. After Thursday's early session surge, West Texas Intermediate crude turned lower and settled in New York trading down more than 2.6%. However, WTI remained up a stunning 17.5% for the week on worries about supply due to Russian aggression.

4. Russian forces seize major Ukrainian nuclear power plant

A screen grab captured from a video shows a view of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during a fire following clashes around the site in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on March 4, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
A screen grab captured from a video shows a view of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during a fire following clashes around the site in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on March 4, 2022.

Ukrainian firefighters on Friday put out a blaze at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that Russian forces seized overnight. No radiation was released, according to United Nations and Ukrainian officials. In the early days of the invasion, now more than a week old, Russian troops captured the decommissioned Chornobyl plant in Ukraine, the site of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday urged neighboring countries not to escalate tensions.

5. Gap shares rise after the retailer issues upbeat 2022 guidance

A Gap store in New York, August 2, 2020.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
A Gap store in New York, August 2, 2020.

Gap shares climbed 7% in Friday's premarket, the morning after the apparel retailer offered an upbeat profit forecast for 2022, in spite of rising inflation and logistics challenges. However, in the near term, Gap sees continued struggles in its first quarter, echoing comments from American Eagle Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Urban Outfitters and Victoria's Secret. Gap's fiscal fourth-quarter revenue came in below pre-Covid pandemic levels but above estimates. The company behind its namesake Gap brand as well as Banana Republic and Old Navy also delivered a narrower-than-expected holiday-quarter loss.

— Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Sign up now for the CNBC Investing Club to follow Jim Cramer's every stock move. Follow the broader market action like a pro on CNBC Pro.

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