Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Nepal’s humanitarian crisis, Baltimore’s riots, Big Oil profits, ridiculously strong robots

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What to watch for today

The death toll rises in Nepal. Officials say the death toll from this weekend’s strong earthquake and aftershocks has risen to more than 4,300—and could rise to 10,000. The UN says 1.4 million people require food and around 8 million were affected by the disaster.

The Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting. Investors are eager for clues about when the US central bank will raise its interest rates. The minutes from March’s meeting show the current thinking is to wait until September at least.

Gauging the US consumer. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index for April is expected to stay strong despite recent weak retail sales. The index hit a seven-year high in January, but has dipped slightly since then.

A heavy day of earnings. Here’s a taste of the companies opening up their books today: Coach, Daimler, Ford, GoPro, JetBlue, Kraft Foods, Merck, Orange, Panera Bread, Pfizer, Revlon, T-Mobile US, Twitter, and UPS.

While you were sleeping

The UK reported slower GDP growth. The British economy grew 2.4% in the first quarter from a year earlier, and only 0.3% on a quarter-on-quarter basis (paywall). That’s below an expected 0.5% quarterly growth rate, and will add pressure on prime minister David Cameron, who faces an election in 10 days.

Rioting erupted in Baltimore. An angry protest following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a black man who died in police custody earlier this month, turned violent, leading to 27 arrests and 15 police injuries. The city declared a curfew, and Maryland governor Larry Hogan deployed the National Guard.

BP and Total beat estimates. London-based BP reported first-quarter profits of $2.6 billion, twice the $1.3 billon expected by analysts. Paris-based Total reported a 22% drop in net profit to $2.6 billion; analysts expected $2.1 billion. Both companies were buoyed by strong refining income, as well as by trading and production.

Daimler buoyed by Mercedes-Benz sales. The German automaker’s first-quarter earnings before interest and tax rose 41% compared to a year earlier, to €2.9 billion ($3.1 billion), ahead of expectations of €2.7 billion. Record sales of Mercedes-Benz cars—in the US, China, and Europe—eased concerns of a China-led slowdown in luxury car consumption.

Santander’s profit rose by a third. More aggressive lending helped the Spanish banking group’s first-quarter net income rose 32% to €1.7 billion ($1.9 billion), beating expectations of €1.7 billion. The bank reported an 8% rise in loans, and said net income increased in nine of its 10 markets.

Time Warner Cable is looking for another merger. The telecom company is open to combining with Charter Communications, a smaller peer that made an unsolicited buyout offer two years ago, according to Reuters. Time Warner’s proposed $45 billion acquisition by Comcast was called off last week due to regulatory opposition.

Worrying signs from Japan’s economy. Retail sales fell by a worse-than-expected 9.7% in March, raising doubts about consumer confidence and putting more pressure on the central bank to introduce new stimulus measures. The year-on-year decline was partially caused by a surge in spending last March, as consumers raced to beat a looming sales tax increase.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve LeVine on the new normal in oil. “The last 11 months have been an unlikely journey for oil, with its widely unanticipated price dive, Saudi Arabia’s uncharacteristic refusal to stem the bloodletting, and financial havoc for petro-powers and energy companies. But as improbable as the journey has been, it is not over. A number of leading analysts say that OPEC has been rendered largely impotent in this new age. The US, they say, is oil’s new czar.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Non-violence is the right answer to the wrong question. In cities like Baltimore, officials are trying to dodge the blame for police brutality.

Women shouldn’t strive for eternal beauty. Eternal coolness is a much better goal—embracing one’s age instead of defying it.

Marijuana could be the antidote to a binge-drinking culture. If you must indulge in a substance, weed is the healthier option.

Drone warfare is a human rights catastrophe. US military officials often don’t know—or care—if civilians are harmed.

Social capital is the key to happiness. That’s why Northern Europe is home to some of the happiest countries in the world.

Surprising discoveries

A Michael Jackson fan tried to defuse the Baltimore riots. He danced on top of a truck to tell demonstrators to “Beat It.”

Kmart has a guide for dressing in “normcore” style. The fashion trend is about looking as plain as possible.

Blame evolution for your aching back. Lower back pain sufferers have spines that look like a chimpanzee’s.

Scientists have created super strong robots. The strongest can pull more than 2,000 times its weight.

There’s more than one way to plug a pothole. A Manchester street artist named “Wanksy” calls attention to them with suggestive graffiti.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, normcore couture, and your best riot-mitigating musical setlist to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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