The Bank of England decided to halt its program of quantitative easing. Since March 2009 it has injected $320 billion into the economy by buying assets.

Nomura forecast a return to profit for the year ending in March after two years of losses. Japan's biggest investment bank bought the Asian and European operations of Lehman Brothers after the Wall Street bank collapsed in September 2008.

Royal Dutch Shell announced the biggest foreign investment to date in Brazil's ethanol industry when it set up a joint venture with Cosan, a producer of biofuels. The venture, worth $12 billion, will control around 4,500 fuel stations in Brazil, where almost all new cars sold can run on any mixture of ethanol and gasoline.

Annual earnings at big oil companies were dragged down by their oil-refining operations. Exxon Mobil and BP saw profit fall by around half; at Shell it was down by 70 percent. With curbs on carbon emissions expected and an expansion under way into natural gas and alternative energy, some firms are considering permanent cutbacks in their refining business.

Amazon briefly stopped selling books from Macmillan in a dispute over pricing on Amazon's e-reader, the Kindle. Macmillan wants e-books to sell for around $15, rather than $10. The tiff followed the unveiling of Apple's new iPad tablet computer. Apple says it will give publishers more leeway to set e-book prices. Amazon conceded it had no choice but to bow to Macmillan's demands.

Rupert Murdoch said he didn't like "the Amazon model of selling everything at $9.99," and indicated that HarperCollins, part of his News Corp. empire, would soon raise the price of its e-books, too. Meanwhile, News Corp. reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings, with increases in both revenue and operating income across all its big media divisions, even newspapers.

Political economy

China reacted angrily to U.S. plans to sell $6 billion of weapons to Taiwan. It suspended military contacts, threatened sanctions against American companies involved in the arms sales and said it would review cooperation on international issues.

Gunmen slaughtered a dozen teenagers and two adults at a birthday party in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican city in the grip of drug-related violence.

Tony Blair testified at the Iraq war inquiry in Britain. The former prime minister gave a stout defense of his decision to send British troops into Iraq, said he would do it again and asked what the situation would be like now if Saddam Hussein had been left in power to develop WMD. One of his former ministers said Blair was being "ludicrous."

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced a review of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bars openly gay soldiers from serving in the armed forces. Adm. Mike Mullen heartily supported the review, the first time a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has backed the idea of allowing gay troops to serve. Congress will have the ultimate say, but not soon.

Iraq's electoral commission reversed a ban on more than 500 candidates who had been told they could not run in next month's election because of past ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath party. Prominent Sunni politicians, who had threatened to boycott the poll because they said the original decision discriminated against them, welcomed the move.

Israel's secret service, Mossad, was widely suspected of the recent assassination in Dubai of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a military commander of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement. Mabhouh was said to have been close to Hamas' political leader, Khaled Meshaal.