The Week in Business: Let’s Go Shopping

Good Morning. The economy is showing more signs of recovery – jobs are returning, the stock market is rising (again) and people are spending. Find the latest business and technical news for the week ahead. Stay out there safe. – Charlotte Cowles

So what did you buy with your stimulus check? Retail sales in March exceeded expectations, rising nearly 10 percent as the final round of federal aid funds hit bank accounts. In restaurants and bars, business grew 13 percent, and clothing and accessories sales rose 18 percent. After a year of sweatpants, people are out and about and need new clothes. Another sign of better times: Last week’s unemployment claims fell to their lowest level since the pandemic began.

Coinbase – a marketplace where people buy and sell digital currencies like Bitcoin – went public on Wednesday, making it the first major cryptocurrency company to do so. The first day of trading made early investors, including basketball star Kevin Durant, very rich (well, even more than they already were). It also encouraged the crypto-curious to dip a toe – or take a plunge – into an increasingly hot market. Digital currencies have seen a boom over the past year as investors pushed their prices to new highs and brought in related companies (like Coinbase).

Are you planning to do business with the Kremlin anytime soon? Too bad. President Biden announced a series of sanctions against Russia last Thursday, banning American banks from buying new Russian national debt. The action was targeted at 32 people and organizations involved in Moscow’s disinformation campaigns and meddling in the 2020 presidential election. Mr Biden also officially blamed Russia’s top intelligence agency for the nifty hacking operation that breached American government agencies and dozens of large corporations over the past year. By restricting access to international finance, the Biden government wants to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiate a more stable relationship with the United States.

Apple’s first product release of the year, titled “Spring Loaded,” will be streamed on the brand’s website this Tuesday. Expected gadgets include a new line of iPad Pros (frankly, your old iPad is running out of space) and new iMac desktops (to enhance your work-from-home setup that you may need in the long run). The company is also reportedly developing a small tracking device called the AirTag that can be attached to items like keys and wallets so you can find them with an app (now that you need it to get back to places!). But it’s unclear if they’ll make their debut this week. Stay tuned.

For years, Instagram has been planning a special version of its app for users under the age of 13. The children’s version is said to include stronger measures to protect against sexual predators and bullying. But it is facing an uphill battle. Last week, an international coalition of 35 children’s and consumer groups called on Mark Zuckerberg, managing director of Instagram parent company Facebook, to cancel plans for the app. On her reasons: “It will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children, who are particularly vulnerable to the platform’s manipulative and exploitative features.”

What does a global shortage of tiny semiconductors – also called chips – have to do with you? Well, they’re used for everything from cars to computers to kitchen appliances. And the companies that make them fluctuate from pandemic-fueled production snafus, causing problems for the auto industry and many other sectors to slide down. Mr. Biden wants to finance more domestic chip production with his infrastructure plan and has in the meantime signed an executive order to strengthen the supply chains. But that may not be enough to fix what has already become a major problem.

Bernie Madoff, who started the largest Ponzi program in history, died in prison at the age of 82. Almost four years after the infamous Fyre Festival sought shelter and water for its attendees in the Bahamas, ticket holders – many of whom had fired at thousands for what was billed as an ultra-luxury experience – will be compensated at approximately $ 7,220 each Piece received. And China’s post-pandemic recovery is booming. The economy grew a whopping 18.3 percent in the first three months of the year, from last year’s low.

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