By Laura Lorenzetti
March 18, 2015

Hello friends and Fortune readers.

U.S. stock futures are inching higher this morning ahead of the Federal Reserve’s press conference following its latest two-day policy meeting. Meanwhile, European shares are mostly flat, and Asian markets closed mixed.

Also of note: oil prices have started another downward decline, falling to $43 a barrel today.

Here’s what else you need to know about.

1. The Fed talks.

The Federal Open Market Committee will end its two-day meeting this afternoon with a policy statement at 2 p.m. ET, along with quarterly economic projections. Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen will then take address the media on how the central bank plans to move forward. Investors will be listening carefully to see if the Fed removes an assurance that it will be “patient” before considering an interest rate boost. That could signal the Fed’s intention to raise interest rates as early as this June — the first such move in almost a decade. About 69% of economists polled by Bloomberg anticipate that the language would be replaced by another guidance phrase.

2. Alibaba goes on sale.

Alibaba Group’s 180-day stock lockup ends today, and that means that early investors who are holding nearly 340 million shares are finally free to cash-in. Those shares are worth about $29 billion and is the biggest stockpile of shares freed up from an IPO lockup to date, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. That will almost double the amount of Alibaba stock available on the open market. Alibaba (BABA) debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in September and became the biggest initial public offering ever when it raised $25 billion. Since then, it’s stock has declined about 10%.

3. Protestors rally against the European Central Bank’s new headquarters.

Protestors and police clashed in Frankfurt as they made their way toward the European Central Bank’s new headquarters that was officially unveiled today. The rally, which was organized by a group called Blockupy and German workers’ unions, attracted thousands who are outraged at the nearly $1.27 billion price tag on the building’s construction. Officials built the 600-foot-high tinted glass tower amid growing austerity measures that many protestors blame for recession and unemployment across the euro zone.

4. Another health insurer is hacked.

Premera Blue Cross revealed Tuesday that it had been hit by a cyber attack last year that may have compromised the data of 11 million customers. The Washington-based health insurance company didn’t discover the breach until Jan. 29 even though it occurred last May. The hackers may have accessed customers’ Social Security numbers, bank account information, contact information, and claims data. The attack is the latest breach to hit the health care industry. Health insurer Anthem was hit in February, and Community Health Systems was hacked last spring.

5. Kraft recalls Mac & Cheese.

Kraft Food Group (KRFT) has recalled nearly 6.5 million boxes of its Kraft Macaroni & Cheese after at least eight customers reported finding small pieces of metal in their meals. The boxes are marked with the code “C2” and affect those marked “best when used by” dates ranging from Sept. 18, 2015 to Oct. 11, 2015. The recall comes as Kraft is struggling with slumping sales and on the heels of its CEO’s resignation in December.


You May Like