Global business

The European Central Bank announced, via Twitter, that it has started its quantitative easing program, through which it expects to buy $64 billion a month in bonds until September 2016. Yields swooned on government debt issued by eurozone members, entering negative territory on some shorter-term bonds. The euro fell below $1.06 to reach a 12-year low against the dollar.

Another factor driving down the euro was a robust monthly jobs report in America. Its strengthening economy has heightened expectations that the Federal Reserve will drop the word "patient" from its policy statement on March 18, which would be a clear signal to markets that it is preparing to raise interest rates.

The Bank of Korea cut its benchmark interest rate to 1.75 percent, a record low, joining a growing number of central banks trying to stave off the threat of deflation and sluggish growth. Thailand's central bank also reduced its rate.

Tidjane Thiam was appointed chief executive of Credit Suisse. He will take over from Brady Dougan in June. The Swiss bank poached Thiam from Prudential, a big British insurer that he has led successfully since 2009. His lack of experience in the banking industry did not stop shareholders cheering his selection in the hope that he will shake up Credit Suisse, which has not undergone the same reform as UBS, its larger Swiss rival.

A raft of indicators suggested that China's economy is cooling more rapidly than had been thought. Official data for January and February (two months combined to flatten the statistical swings from China's new-year holiday) recorded sharp declines in the rates in which industrial production, retail sales and investment in fixed assets are growing. Property sales fell by the most in three years.

After three consecutive years in the red, Virgin Atlantic reported a small annual pretax profit of $23.7 million. The airline has bought new and efficient planes and benefited from cheaper oil, but the main factor behind its return to profit is its alliance with Delta Air Lines, which bought a 49 percent stake in Virgin in 2013. This helped Virgin reduce costs and close unprofitable routes. However, the European Union is investigating whether Virgin has ceded too much control of its business to Delta under their arrangement.

Political economy

Russia detained five men from Chechnya, an unruly southern region, for the murder of Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician who was recently shot in Moscow. One of the alleged suspects is a former commander of a militia linked to Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's leader and ally of Russia's president, Vladimir Putin.

Italy's highest court confirmed the acquittal of Silvio Berlusconi on charges of paying for sex with an underage dancer in the "bunga bunga" sex case. The former prime minister finished his last day of community service recently on separate charges of tax fraud. He is now free to rally his Forza Italia party for regional elections in May. But he is severely weakened and his party is divided.

Sweden scrapped a deal to sell arms to Saudi Arabia after the Saudis stopped the Swedish foreign minister from giving a speech to the Arab League in which she planned to denounce the Saudi record on human rights. The kingdom recalled its ambassador from Sweden. Meanwhile, the German economy minister, on a visit to the Gulf region, called for the release of Raif Badawi, a liberal blogger who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes in Saudi Arabia.

Simone Gbagbo, the wife of Ivory Coast's former president, Laurent Gbagbo, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role during the turmoil in 2011 after the presidential election, when her husband refused to accept defeat and some 3,000 people were said to have been killed. Other leading figures in the ousted regime were handed similar sentences. Laurent Gbagbo himself is awaiting trial in the Hague.

A Supreme Court justice in Brazil released the names of 34 politicians in office, mostly allies of the government, who are to be investigated in connection with the bribery scandal surrounding Petrobras, a state-controlled oil company. Dilma Rousseff, the president, will not be investigated. But her televised speech on International Women's Day was drowned out in some big Brazilian cities by people banging pots in protest.

A senior Chinese official said the government would introduce plans by 2017 to raise the retirement age, which is currently 60 for men and as low as 50 for female blue-collar workers. Adjustments would be gradual. By 2050, he said, people over 60 will make up nearly 40 percent of the population, up from 15 percent today.