Global business

There was a double blow for embattled Volkswagen. First, the German carmaker lost its position as the world's biggest car producer to Toyota. Although VW outsold its Japanese rival during the first half of 2015, Toyota sold 7.49 million vehicles in the nine months to September compared with VW's 7.43 million. Then the firm reported a net loss of $1.9 billion for the third quarter, its first loss for 15 years.

Britain's GDP figures gave some cause for concern. They show that in the third quarter, Britain's economy grew by just 0.5 percent, down from 0.6 percent last year in the same period. The economy is suffering from the strength of the pound, which has hit the country's manufacturing exports. The news could mean a delay to the first interest-rate rise since 2007.

The European Parliament voted to ban data-roaming charges for mobile phones within the E.U. The ban will come into effect from June 2017. Separately, Internet providers will be forbidden from charging extra for "fast lanes," except for certain specialized services, after the parliament voted to protect "network neutrality" — equal treatment for all Internet traffic.

BP's profits fell by 40 percent in the three months to the end of September, compared with the same period last year. The firm blamed the low price of gas and oil. BP, which has already slashed its costs, said it would find billions of dollars more savings in the coming year. Shell, another oil firm, reported a loss of $6.1 billion in the same quarter, compared with a $5.3 billion profit last year.

Square, a payments company run by Jack Dorsey, who is also boss of Twitter, reported a loss of $53.9 million in the three months to the end of September. The results are expected to be the last it will publish before an initial public offering. Square will be one of the first "unicorns" — start-ups valued at over $1 billion — to go public.

Theranos, one of Silicon Valley's most prominent start-ups, with a valuation of around $9 billion, faced a barrage of negative press reports suggesting the firm's blood-testing technology is not all it purports to be. Theranos claims it can do a wide variety of health tests by drawing a few drops of blood from the finger. However, the Wall Street Journal claimed that its tests are not reliable.

Everything remains rosy at Apple after the firm released strong fourth-quarter results. The firm sold 48 million iPhones during the last three months of its fiscal year, with sales particularly strong in China. Apple's net income was $11.1 billion, compared with $8.5 billion during the same quarter last year.

American regulators said they would be looking into accounting practices at IBM and the way it recognized revenue. The news came as the computer firm said it would buy back $4 billion of its shares.

Political economy

An American naval ship has sailed within 12 nautical miles of a reef in the South China Sea, one of several where China has been building artificial islands. The Chinese government called the maneuver "illegal." The United States wants to show that all ships have a right to pass through the waters.

Nepal elected Bidhya Devi Bhandari as the Himalayan country's first female president. Bhandari replaces Ram Baran Yadav, who was the country's first elected head of state in 2008 after Nepal abolished its monarchy. The new president faces several problems, including a row over the constitution and a dispute with India over fuel deliveries.

Joko Widodo, Indonesia's president, cut short a state visit to the U.S. to handle an air-pollution crisis caused by fires used to clear farmland in rural areas. The annual haze is one of the worst in memory.

Saudi Arabia's oil minister said that his government is considering an increase in domestic energy prices, in an attempt to rein in a budget deficit that is approaching 20 percent of GDP. The low oil price around the world has caused government revenue to fall.

Ivory Coast elected its president, Alassane Ouattara, to a second term by a landslide, while in Congo-Brazzaville the incumbent, Denis Sassou Nguesso, easily won a referendum on a constitutional amendment that will allow him a third consecutive term.

In Portugal, President Aníbal Cavaco Silva asked the leader of the ruling centre-right Forward Portugal Alliance (PAF) to form a government, even though it lost its majority in parliament earlier in October.

In Poland, the conservative Law and Justice party, which is allied in the European Parliament with Britain's Conservative Party, won an unexpectedly impressive victory in elections on Oct. 25.

The Pentagon announced that Northrop Grumman, maker of the B-2 bomber, had defeated a rival bid by Boeing and Lockheed Martin to develop and build a next-generation long-range strike bomber. The order could be worth up to $80 billion if the United States Air Force buys all 100 stealth bombers it says it needs.