The latest report on consumer prices shows inflation slowing and small business owner confidence ticks up. Here’s what investors need to know today.
1. Inflation Slows as Energy Prices Decline
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.4% in February, easing slightly from a 0.5% gain in January as energy prices declined 0.6%. On an annual basis, the index was up 6%, down from a rate of 6.4% in January. The core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.5% in February and was up 5.5% from a year ago, marking the smallest 12-month increase since December 2021.
2. Small Business Owner Optimism Ticks Up
Confidence among small business owners about business conditions edged up in February, though rising prices continued to weigh on sentiment, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). The NFIB's Small Business Optimism Index came in at 90.9 for February, slightly below the consensus estimate of 91, but up from 90.3 the month before. Over a quarter or 28% of owners reported inflation as their single most important business problem, up 2 points from the last month.
3. AMAT Approves Buyback Plan and Raises Dividend
Computer chip equipment maker Applied Materials (AMAT) said that its board has approved a new $10 billion stock buyback plan and also raised its quarterly dividend. The newly approved buyback plan adds to a previous plan that had $4.7 billion remaining while also hiking its dividend by 23% to 32 cents per share.
4. Rivian Looks to End Exclusive Deal With Amazon
Shares of Rivian (RIVN) fell 3% as the electric truck startup reportedly looks to end an exclusive deal with Amazon. Amazon says it still plans to buy 100,000 Rivian vans by 2030. Under terms of the agreement, Amazon can buy vans from anyone, while Rivian can only sell its vans to the ecommerce retailer. By eliminating the exclusivity piece of the agreement, Rivian would be allowed to court new customers as it ramps up production of the vans and its R1 series pickup trucks and SUVs.
5. California Court Rules Uber and Lyft Can Treat Drivers as Contractors
Uber (UBER) and Lyft (LYFT) shares surged in pre-market trading after a California court ruled that Uber and Lyft have the right to treat drivers as contractors. The ruling preserves the gig-economy business model but also includes the possibility of collective bargaining in the future.