Caterpillar earnings, Brexit, economic data: 3 things to watch for in the markets on Friday

An employee assembles an excavator at the Caterpillar Inc. manufacturing facility in Victoria, Texas.
Callaghan O'Hare | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Here are the most important things to know about Friday before you hit the door.

1. Caterpillar earnings

Industrial giant Caterpillar is set to report quarterly earnings before the bell Friday. Investors will look to the heavy machinery company to gauge the health of U.S. manufacturing, and any guidance on the impact from the coronavirus will also be crucial.

At the height of the U.S.-China trade war last year, Caterpillar took a big hit from higher material costs including tariffs.  Lower demand in China also made a dent in its profit. In the current earnings season, many major companies including Apple and McDonald's have already sounded alarms on the negative impact from the fast-spreading virus.

Shares of Caterpillar have fallen nearly 10% in January alone, following a 16% gain last year.

Wall Street analysts have pretty low expectations for fourth-quarter results. FactSet consensus shows an EPS estimate of $2.38, lower than the $2.55 per share earned in the same quarter a year earlier.

2. Brexit official

The U.K. is due to leave the European Union officially at 11 p.m. London time on Friday.

A transition period will follow immediately, where the country will still be subject to European laws and rules, but it will not have voting rights around the EU table. The U.K. will also be allowed to develop new trade arrangements with other parts of the world. This will be the case until the end of 2020, at least.

The transition period is meant to give EU and U.K. negotiators more time to outline their future relationship. This will include new arrangements on fishing, security, data sharing and the overall trade of goods and services.

The U.K. government will hold a special meeting in the north of England and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will speak to the nation on Friday evening.

3. A slew of economic data

Investors also will monitor a string of economic data Friday. Personal income and spending data will be released in the morning, which includes the personal consumption expenditure inflation deflator, watched closed by the Federal Reserve.

Economists polled by Dow Jones expect the PCE core price index to have risen 0.2% in December. The Labor Department said earlier this month its consumer price index, which includes the volatile food and energy components, increased 0.2% last month after climbing 0.3% in November.

We'll also get an update on consumer sentiment when the University of Michigan's Surveys of Consumers releases its new number for January. Economists are expecting the gauge to dip slightly to 99.1 from 99.3 in December. Consumer sentiment rose slightly last month as President Donald Trump's impeachment had a "barely noticeable impact" on economic expectations.

Major events (all times ET):

8:30 a.m. Personal income

8:30 a.m. Consumer spending

8:30 a.m. Core PCE prices

9:45 a.m. Chicago PMI

10:00 a.m. Consumer sentiment

Major earnings:

Caterpillar (before the bell)

Exxon Mobil (before the bell)

Chevron (before the bell)

— CNBC's Silvia Amaro contributed reporting.