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The Fed talks, and FedEx reports — 5 things to know today

June 17, 2015, 11:49 AM UTC
Photograh by Pete Marovich—Bloomberg/Getty

Hello friends and Fortune readers.

U.S. stock index futures are inching up today, but investors remain cautious ahead of a Federal Reserve statement that could provide hints on the timing of a rate hike.

Today’s U.S. Federal Reserve meeting is expected to kick off with a statement at 2:00 p.m. ET, and will be followed by Chair Janet Yellen’s news conference half an hour later, with analysts expecting her to focus on signs the economy is recovering after a bumpy start to the year.

Also, Fitbit, the wearable device maker, is expected to price its IPO after the close of trading today, and its stock will start trading Thursday. It has been billed as one of the most exciting IPOs of 2015.

Today’s must-read story is from Fortune’s Shawn Tully on the round-robin of merger talks among U.S. health insurers. UnitedHealth (UNH) made overtures to Aetna (AET) on Tuesday–such a combination would create a behemoth bigger than Apple (AAPL).

Here’s what else you need to know to start your day.

1. The FedEx index.

FedEx (FDX), the package shipping giant, reported a flat quarterly net profit Wednesday that came in just below market expectations as its international business was hurt by the strong dollar and falling fuel surcharges. The Memphis-based company reported a fiscal fourth-quarter net profit of $753 million or $2.66 per share, unchanged from $753 million or $2.54 per share a year earlier.

FedEx is considered an economic bellwether. Shipping activity often reflects the overall level of economic activity, which makes the company an important point of reference for investors who will be following the company’s fourth-quarter results carefully today. While FedEx’s stock has fared well this year, the overall transportation industry has lagged the overall market.

2. Greek drama rolls on.

Relations between Greece and its creditors have become increasingly acrimonious in recent days, leaving little hope that a meeting of EU finance ministers on Thursday will make any progress. Athens needs fresh funds to avoid defaulting on a 1.6 billion euro ($1.8 billion) debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund on June 30, which could drive it towards the euro zone exit.

3. The Fed talks.

The Federal Open Markets Committee ends its two-day meeting today, capped off with a statement by Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen at 2 p.m. ET. Investors will be scouring the language for any hint as to when the Fed is likely to being raising interest rates and the pace of any subsequent hikes. While the central bank is unlikely to raise rates this time, investors expect that the decision will be enacted this year, potentially as soon as the September meeting. Fed officials, for their part, are tiptoeing around the wording to reassure investors that the eventual rate hikes will happen slowly without making any explicit promises.
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4. Oracle reports.

The world’s leading database company will reveal its fourth quarter earnings after the market close. Oracle (ORCL) is expected to report lower revenue and profit as the company moves toward a more investment-heavy cloud-computing business mode. The heavy spending is likely compounded by weaker overall technology spending by businesses in an uncertain economy.

5. Jeff Immelt talks exports.

The General Electric CEO will speak at the Economic Club of Washington today at 12 p.m. ET, brining up issues around global competition and the Export-Import Bank. As America’s official export credit agency, many corporations like GE (GE) rely on the Export-Import Bank to help fund their entry and expansion into lucrative foreign markets. However, the bank is set to shut down this summer unless Congress reauthorizes it before its expiration at month’s end.
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—Reuters contributed to this report.