Business Highlights: Profits at big banks, retail sales

The top stories in the business world for the day.

The profits of the largest US banks are largely unaffected by industry distress

NEW YORK, NY (AP) - The nation's biggest banks seem to be coping well with the current turmoil within their industry. The nation's largest banks reported strong profits in the last quarter despite a pair historic bank failures that put the banking industry of the United States into crisis mode. This was helped by rising interest rates, and an economy which continues to grow and add jobs, even though the Federal Reserve is trying to curb inflation. JPMorgan Chase & Co. reported a 52% increase in its first quarter profits. Wells Fargo topped Wall Street expectations, as did Citigroup and PNC Financial. Investors are now focusing on regional banks reporting results next week.

Fed's top official calls for further interest rate hikes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - A senior Federal Reserve official stated Friday that inflation has not progressed in more than a calendar year. He said that additional interest rate increases are necessary to bring prices under control. Christopher Waller is a member of Fed's governing council. He did not say how many increases he supported, but he said that the inflation was still'much too high' and his job wasn't done. Waller's comments that he supports more rate increases follow a forecast made by the Fed staff economists in Fed minutes on Wednesday for a "mild recession" later this year.

US retail sales drop 1% amid rising inflation and rates

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - Americans reduced their retail and restaurant spending for the second consecutive month in March. This is a sign that consumers are becoming more conservative after a spending spree in January. Retail sales fell 1% from February to March, which is a greater decline than the 0.2% drop in the preceding month. The decline was primarily due to lower sales in autos, electronics and home and garden stores. Data is not adjusted for inflation which only rose slightly last month.

Stocks fall as worries about rates overshadow large bank profits

NEW YORK, NY (AP) - Stocks in Wall Street fell as concerns about interest rates overshadowed a positive start to the earnings season for major U.S. corporations. S&P 500 fell by 0.2% on Friday, but managed to achieve its fourth weekly gain out of the past five. A top Fed official warned that more rate hikes could be necessary to control inflation. This shattered Wall Street's hope that the rate increases were nearing an end, and added to fears of a possible recession in this year. Treasury yields increased. JPMorgan Chase's and other large banks' gains helped limit Wall Street losses after blowout profits reports.

Optum Business helps UnitedHealth surpass 1Q expectations

NEW YORK, NY (AP) - UnitedHealth has surpassed its first quarter forecasts for the first time and raised its 2023 guidance. This was largely due to the growth of its Optum Care segment. The health care giant announced Friday that its Optum division, which manages and provides prescription drug benefits as well as care, saw a 25% increase in revenue. The operating earnings of that segment also increased 19%, to $3.7 billion. Optum operates clinics, surgery centers and urgent care centers. UnitedHealth reports that it served 103 millions people during the third quarter. UnitedHealth is still primarily a health insurance company. In the first quarter, UnitedHealth collected premiums worth nearly $73 billion.

Senegal gas deal drives locals to desperation, prostitution

Residents of Saint-Louis in Senegal found hope when the gas rig was spotted off the coast. Saint-Louis is a fishing town, but it has been struggling with COVID-19 and climate change. The drilling was promised to create thousands of jobs. Locals claim that the drilling has only brought a wave problems including some women being forced into prostitution. The women spoke under condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because their families do not know what they are doing. The women are not registering because they feel ashamed. Prostitution is legalized in Senegal. The women claim that their husbands are unable to fish due to the restricted access on the rig. Both the government and gas companies claim that people should be patient and eventually benefits will materialize.

US Energy Secretary says G7 can lead global emission cuts

OTARU (AP) - U.S. Energy Sec. Jennifer Granholm said the Group of Seven wealthy countries can set an example by cutting carbon emissions. However, she added that faster action was needed to stop global warming. Granholm spoke to The Associated Press during a tour of the world's only liquefied hydrogen carrier. The ship showcases Japanese efforts at converting heavily polluting coke into emissions-free power. Granholm said that the U.S. plans to create hubs for hydrogen production and usage, even though commercial use is limited. The G-7 energy ministers and environment ministers will meet on Hokkaido, the northern Japanese island ahead of next month's summit.

Digital conglomerate purchases right-wing app Parler

NEW YORK, NY (AP) - The digital media conglomerate Starboard announced Friday that it had purchased the conservative social networking site Parler. It will temporarily remove the app while it undergoes a strategic evaluation'. This deal comes months after a previous agreement to acquire rapper Kanye, also known legally as Ye, in November, failed. Terms of the deal were not revealed by either company. Parler is a platform that caters to the right-wing, libertarian and far right voices. It also has fewer rules and supports free speech. In 2021, it was removed from the internet due to its links to the attack on the U.S. Capitol that took place on Jan. 6. Its user base is still small.

'Quiet luxury': No flash, no logos, but big-time style

NEW YORK, NY (AP) - They are the largest of brands. They're the biggest of brands, but without logos. That's what the point is. You can call it quiet luxury or stealth wealth. Logo-free, low key fashion with high price tags are gaining popularity among the wealthy and those who aim to be rich in this volatile economy and higher inflation. Retailers are also taking notice, as well as more designers who want to attract the rich and wannabes. Gwyneth paltrow wore Celine boots, Celine sweaters and Prada from head to toe during her recent appearance in a Utah Courtroom.

The S&P500 fell 8.58 points or 0.2% to 4,137.64. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 143.22 or 0.4% to 33,886.47. The Nasdaq Composite fell 42.81 points or 0.4%, to 12,123.47. Russell 2000, an index of smaller companies, lost 15.53 points or 0.9% to 1,781.15.