Alibaba’s IPO, the Fed and Scotland — 5 things to watch for this week

September 14, 2014, 8:10 PM UTC
Photograph by Bloomberg/Getty Images

Hello friends and Fortune readers.

This past week was all about Apple (AAPL) as it launched its new iPhone 6 phones and a watch. Reactions ranged from thrilled to underwhelmed, and everywhere in between. Either way, Apple fans seem to approve. The first day of pre-orders on Friday sent its website, as well as those of its carrier partners, into overdrive.

This week another company beginning with A will be in focus: Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, which enters the global stage with a massive IPO.

Here’s what you need to know about this week.

1. After all the hype, Alibaba hits the market.

China’s Alibaba is due for its debut on the public markets this Friday. The company, which set an IPO range for $60 to $66 a share, may become the largest U.S. offering ever — and potentially the largest globally. It looks like the underwriters will close the books early and potentially price Alibaba’s shares even higher than the specified range. Hang on for a wild ride on the New York Stock Exchange later this week.

2. Scotland may strike out on its own.

Scotland is set to vote Thursday on whether it should declare its independence, severing ties with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Much hangs in the balance as banks, such as The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBSPF), and other companies, such the Weir Group (WEIGF), threaten to move their headquarters south if the Scots vote to go it alone. Residents that favored staying in the union were the clear majority until the past few weeks when the gap narrowed substantially.

(Fear not, admirers of the Royal Family: Even if the Scots vote for independence, the Queen will remain Scotland’s head of state, at least in the short term, maintaining a role that’s similar to her figurehead status in independent Canada, Australia and New Zealand.)

3. Janet Yellen takes the spotlight, again.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will take to the podium Wednesday afternoon when the Fed ends its two-day policy meeting with a statement and press conference. The central bank may change its timeline of interest rate hikes.

Ethan Harris, Bank of America’s (BA) co-head of global economic research, has moved up his timing for the Fed’s first rate hike from next September to June.

“We expect some mildly hawkish signals out of the Fed,” he said in a research report.

Yellen’s comments will follow updated inflation numbers that will be released Wednesday morning. Analysts expect August’s consumer price index to be flat month over month, and up 1.9% compared to a year earlier.

4. Americans are over cereal, so what does that mean for General Mills?

Americans have lost their appetite for cereals. Sales of the fortified, sugary grains are declining and are expected to fall to $9.7 billion from $10 billion last year, according to Euromonitor. U.S. eaters have been trading in their Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch for granola bars, yogurt and fast food fare. (McBrunch, anyone?)

Look out for General Mills’ (GIS) earnings on Wednesday to see how the packaged food maker is faring amid the changing food landscape. Analysts expect the company to post earnings per share of 69 cents, an annual decline, on sales of $4.38 billion.

While we’re on the subject of food, packaged-food giant ConAgra Foods (CAG), the maker of Chef Boyardee and Hunt’s tomato sauce, reports its results on Thursday. Analyst anticipate earnings per share of 34 cents on $3.75 billion of sales.

5. Will NFL fans abandon the league?

The NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell have been the target of public ire after a video came out that clearly showed Ray Rice assaulting his then fiancée. Rice, who had been previously suspended for two games for domestic violence, was cut from the league indefinitely last week, but even that hasn’t assuaged the anger of fans that Goodell had knowledge of the video and initially let Rice off with such a light punishment.

Nielsen ratings for the weekend football games come out Monday morning. Keep an eye out to see if there’s a dip as NFL fans forego watching their beloved teams, or if the NFL ratings will remain impervious to the public outrage.

Lower ratings could be the death knell for Goodell.

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