Walmart, Fed minutes, and Greece — 5 things to watch for this week

August 16, 2015, 10:10 PM UTC
Photograph by Chip Somodevilla — Getty Images

Hello friends and Fortune readers.

With the excitement of earnings season slowing down, Walmart will be one of the few remaining market-moving companies to report its latest quarterly results this week, along with a handful of other big retailers. But the real focus for investors this week will be the release of minutes from last month’s Federal Reserve meeting, which could contain some insight into when the market should expect interest rates to tick upward for the first time in almost a decade. Also, Greece will make a large debt repayment to one of its European creditors this week.

Here’s what you need to know to start your week.

1. Fed Minutes

As the market waits with baited breath for any news on the Federal Reserve’s impending interest rate hike, investors will pore over Wednesday’s release of minutes from the Fed’s July meeting to look for solid signs that the central bank will raise rates in September. The Fed’s statement following its meeting in July indicated steady growth in the U.S. economy and workforce, but a deeper dive into the minutes from that gathering could offer insight into how strongly Fed leaders feel about raising rates sooner rather than later this year. Meanwhile, there will be more economic data released this week that could influence the Fed’s stance, including a look at housing data as well as the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index, which likely increased 0.2% in July.


2. Earnings slow to trickle; retailers report

Retail giants Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT) report second-quarter earnings on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Walmart, which has stepped up its competition with rivals like Target on a variety of fronts of late, is expected to beat analysts’ sales expectations for the most recent quarter while Target’s numbers are expected to disappoint. Meanwhile, TJX (TJX) — parent company of off-price retailer T.J. Maxx and the subject of a recent Fortune magazine article — should once again beat Wall Street’s forecasts for profit and sales as lower gas prices and U.S. wage growth led to an increase in bargain-hunting consumers. Other retailers reporting quarterly results this week include Gap (GPS), American Eagle Outfitters (AEO), and Urban Outfitters (URBN).

3. Tech earnings

A handful of tech companies will also report results from their latest fiscal quarters this week, led by Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). HP’s third-quarter report is expected to show earnings that barely beat analysts’ expectations after the company focused on cost-cutting and higher-margin business areas ahead of the impending split of its computer and printer businesses from its enterprise hardware and service arm. Also reporting this week is cloud software giant Salesforce (CRM), which is expected to report strong second-quarter profit after previously struggling to post much of a profit despite impressive revenue growth.

4. Greek payment due

It appears that Greece will be able to make a $3.6 billion payment to the European Central Bank by Thursday after euro zone finance ministers agreed to the terms of the troubled country’s third bailout last week. The agreement paves the way for a $95 billion financial rescue that includes austerity measures such as tax increases and spending cuts that were approved by the Greek Parliament on Friday despite heavy opposition from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ own political party.

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5. Oil data

The American Petroleum Institute puts out its monthly report on U.S. oil inventories and demand on Thursday, a day after the U.S. Energy Information Administration releases its own oil inventory report, while Friday brings Baker Hughes’ weekly look at the number of oil and gas rigs operating in the U.S. While summer is meant to be the season where oil prices hit their annual highs, the price of crude oil has plunged recently. The price for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude has fallen by more than 30% since the beginning of June, to nearly $40, as the ongoing global oil glut keeps dragging down the world’s oil prices.

—Reuters contributed to this report.

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