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Stocks, the Fed, and the GOP debate — 5 things to watch for this week

Fed Chair Janet YellenFed Chair Janet Yellen
Fed Chair Janet Yellen2013 Bloomberg

Hello friends and Fortune readers.

We could be in for another turbulent week at the stock market, as there will be a handful of economic reports released throughout the week — from August retail sales to consumer prices — while the primary focus for investors this week will be the highly-anticipated September Fed meeting. Leaders at the Federal Reserve will gather this week to discuss the timing of their long-awaited interest rate hike and investors will be watching closely. Meanwhile, Sunday marks the first full slate of NFL regular season games and Wednesday brings another GOP primary debate that could draw huge ratings.

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

1. A long-awaited Fed meeting

A lot has changed since the earlier days of summer, when many economists predicted the Federal Reserve would finally decide to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade at its two-day September meeting, which begins this Wednesday. China’s economic struggles, along with depressed commodity prices, led to a great deal of market turbulence in August, casting doubt on whether the Fed would hike rates sooner rather than later. Most economists are now split on that question, but they’ll all be watching closely this week for any sign of the central bank’s intentions.

2. More stock market volatility?

U.S. stocks finished last week slightly up despite a fair amount of market turbulence carrying over from the volatile month of August. That volatility is likely to continue this week, thanks to the Fed’s meeting on economic policy and the market’s likely bracing for a potential interest rate hike. In addition, stocks could be affected by a handful of economic reports, including Tuesday’s release of retail sales data for August, which is expected to show that sales saw a 0.3% bump last month. Meanwhile, Wednesday will bring an update on consumer prices, which are expected to have remained steady in August after rising slightly in July.

3. Earnings from Oracle, Rite Aid, and more

Corporate earnings continue to trickle in and highlights this week include software company Oracle (ORCL), which is expected to report a dip in second-quarter revenue on Wednesday. Oracle is in the middle of a shift in focus to cloud-based software sales, but the company is not yet moving fast enough to make up for the decline of its traditional software business. On Thursday, drugstore chain Rite Aid (RAD) is actually expected to report second-quarter profit that outpaces Wall Street’s estimates after lowering its full-year profit forecast earlier this summer. Also reporting quarterly results this week is shipping company FedEx (FDX) as well as Inditex (IDEXY), the giant Spanish fashion group.

4. GOP debate on CNN

Wednesday brings the second Republican presidential primary debate, which will likely be a major ratings boon for host network CNN, owned by Time Warner (TWX). Last month’s debate earned Fox News a record 24 million viewers and CNN already seems to be benefiting from the buzz around the follow-up, with the network reportedly increasing its advertising rates for the debate from the normal rate of $5,000 per 30-second ad spot to as much as $200,000 per spot. Just like in the last debate, real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump continues to lead the other candidates in the polls. Trump’s popularity, and the media’s fascination with him, even has the billionaire taking responsibility for CNN’s ad rate boost.

5. NFL kicks off in earnest

The first NFL regular season game went in the books last Thursday, with the New England Patriots (led by recently un-suspended quarterback Tom Brady) defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers. But, the pro football season will get fully in swing on Sunday with a full slate of games, followed by two Monday night contests airing on Disney’s (DIS) ESPN. The season gets underway amid a dark cloud over the league’s executive offices, where commissioner Roger Goodell has been criticized for his handling of the “Deflategate” scandal involving an overturned suspension of Brady over his supposed involvement in under-inflating footballs in last season’s playoffs.

—Reuters contributed to this report.