Toyota settled a class-action lawsuit in the United States involving instances of sticking accelerator pedals that led to a big safety recall of its vehicles in 2009-2010. The carmaker is to compensate drivers under the terms of the settlement, which lawyers for the plaintiffs valued at as much as $1.4 billion, describing it as a "landmark" case in the auto industry.
Markets were surprised, shortly before Christmas, by the announcement that NYSE Euronext, which operates the New York Stock Exchange, had agreed to an $8.2 billion takeover bid from Intercontinental Exchange, an electronic exchange based in Atlanta. If its deal is approved, ICE will gain access to Euronext's lucrative futures business.
Last year was a good one for many of the world's stock markets. The S&P 500 rose by 13 percent during 2012, the NASDAQ by 16 percent and the Dow Jones industrial average by 7 percent.
In Europe, the German DAX gained 29 percent and the FTSE 100 rose 6 percent. Even the benchmark Greek index advanced by 33 percent. The MSCI Emerging Markets index saw a 15-percent increase.Political economy
The Constitutional Council in France struck down Francois Hollande's flagship measure of a 75 percent top income-tax rate on those who earn at least $1.3 million annually. The rebuff came only days before the tax was due to take effect. Hollande vowed to revise the law to meet the court's objections and reintroduce it.
Prime Minister Mario Monti, who has headed a nonparty government in Italy since November 2011, said he was ready to serve again if asked after a general election. The election probably will be held on Feb. 28. Monti has launched his own policy agenda and held talks with center-right groups.
President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela suffered a respiratory infection and further complications after a fourth operation for cancer in Cuba. Officials canceled New Year's Eve celebrations and organized a mass to pray for Chavez's life, but denied rumors that he was in an induced coma or had died.
President Evo Morales of Bolivia announced further nationalizations of foreign companies, this time of two Spanish-owned electricity-distribution firms.
Nearly 64 percent of voters in Egypt endorsed an Islamist-flavored constitution in December. Turnout was less than 33 percent. The secular opposition hopes to do better in a general election next month.
Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, used a New Year's speech to urge greater cooperation with the South and to seek improvement in the North's economy. Park Geun-hye, who was elected last month as South Korea's first female president, has indicated that she is willing to restart a dialogue with the North.