April 14, 2023
Supreme Court asked to preserve abortion pill access rules
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration and a drug manufacturer are asking the Supreme Court to preserve access to an abortion pill free from restrictions imposed by lower court rulings, while a legal fight continues. The Justice Department and New York-based Danco Laboratories filed their emergency requests Friday, less than two days after an appeals court ruling in a Texas case that effectively tightened rules under which mifepristone can be prescribed and dispensed. The new limits would take effect Saturday unless the court acts before. The fight over mifepristone lands at the Supreme Court less than a year after conservative justices reversed Roe v. Wade and allowed more than a dozen states to effectively ban abortion.
US retail sales fall 1% amid high inflation, rising rates
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans cut their spending at retail stores and restaurants in March for the second straight month, a sign consumers are becoming more cautious after a burst of spending in January. Retail sales dropped 1% in March from February, a sharper decline than the 0.2% fall in the previous month. Lower sales of autos, electronics, and at home and garden stores drove the decline. The data isn’t adjusted for inflation, which rose only slightly last month.
JPMorgan Chase profits jump 52% amid banking turmoil
JPMorgan Chase says first-quarter profits rose 52%, helped by higher interest rates which allowed the bank to charge customers more for loans. The bank saw deposits grow noticeably, as business and customers flocked to the banking titan after the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. With its strong results, as well as solid results out of Citigroup and Wells Fargo on Friday, there seem to be few signs of potential trouble in the banking system — at least for the nation’s biggest, most complex financial institutions. Shares of each of the three big banks rose in early trading.
Wells Fargo tops Wall Street 1Q targets, earning $5 billion
Wells Fargo beat sales and profit targets in the first quarter of the year, a period that saw the collapse of two banks that rattled the financial sector and the broader stock market. Wells earned $5 billion in the period, or $1.23 per share, handily beating analyst projections. Revenue of $20.7 billion also topped Wall Street’s forecast. Like other banks, Wells has benefitted from the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes as the central bank tries to tamp down the highest inflation in four decades. Shares of Wells Fargo jumped 3% in premarket trading.
Top Fed official sees need for more interest rate increases
WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior Federal Reserve official said Friday that there has been little progress on inflation for more than a year and that more interest rate hikes are needed to get prices under control. Christopher Waller, a member of the Fed’s governing board, did not specify how many more increases he supports, but said in written remarks that inflation “is still much too high and so my job is not done.” Waller’s comments expressing support for more rate hikes follow a forecast by the Fed’s staff economists, revealed in Fed minutes Wednesday, for a “mild recession” later this year.
Senegal gas deal drives locals to desperation, prostitution
SAINT-LOUIS, Senegal (AP) — When the gas rig arrived off the coast of Saint-Louis, residents of the seaside Senegalese town found reason to hope. Fishing is Saint-Louis’ lifeblood, but the industry struggled with climate change and COVID-19. Officials promised the drilling would bring thousands of jobs. But locals say it’s brought only a wave of problems, including forcing some women into prostitution. The women spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because their families don’t know what they do. Prostitution is legal in Senegal, but the women don’t want to register, citing cultural shame. They say their husbands can’t fish because of restricted access from the rig. The government and gas companies say people must be patient, and benefits will eventually materialize.
Takeaways from AP report on impact of Senegal’s gas project
SAINT-LOUIS, Senegal (AP) — For years, residents of the small fishing town of Saint-Louis in Senegal have been struggling. Climate change, foreign industrial trawlers and the COVID-19 pandemic have made it hard to earn a living on the water. So when Senegal announced a new gas project off the coast in 2015, the community was hopeful it would bring new opportunities. Instead, many locals say the gas has brought only a wave of problems and pushed people to desperation. That includes forcing some women who told The Associated Press in interviews that they’ve had to turn to prostitution to support their families. The deal is expected to produce around 2.3 million tons of liquified natural gas a year. That’s enough to support production for more than 20 years. But locals say they haven’t seen the benefits.
US energy secretary says G7 can lead global emissions cuts
OTARU, Japan (AP) — U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm says the Group of Seven wealthy nations can lead by example in cutting carbon emissions, though faster action is needed to stem global warming. Granholm spoke with The Associated Press while touring the world’s first and only liquefied hydrogen carrier, a ship that showcases Japanese efforts to transform heavily polluting coal into emissions-free hydrogen power. The U.S. is preparing to set up hubs for production and use of hydrogen, though its commercial use is still limited, and Granholm says American plans call for using hydrogen from clean energy. G-7 energy and environment ministers are meeting on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido ahead of a summit next month.
Stocks slip as rate worries overshadow big bank profits
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are slipping as a swirl of competing forces spins Wall Street, from strong profits for financial giants to worries about interest rates and the economy’s strength. The S&P 500 was 0.5% lower in midday trading Friday. A top Fed official warned that more interest rate hikes may be needed to get inflation under control. That hurt Wall Street’s hopes that an end to increases was near, and it added to worries about a possible recession this year. Treasury yields rose. Gains for JPMorgan Chase and other big banks were helping to limit Wall Street’s losses following blowout profit reports.
Optum business helps push UnitedHealth past 1Q expectations
UnitedHealth beat first-quarter forecasts and hiked its 2023 guidance for the first time, pushed in part by more growth from its Optum care segment. The health care giant said Friday that revenue jumped 25% from its Optum segment, which provides care and manages prescription drug benefits. Operating earnings from that part of the business also grew 19% to $3.7 billion. The Optum business runs clinics, urgent care and surgery centers. UnitedHealth says it served 103 million people in the quarter. Health insurance is still UnitedHealth’s biggest revenue generator. The company collected nearly $73 billion in premiums in the first quarter.