Glo­bal busi­ness

Japan's economy hobbled out of recession in the last quarter of 2014, growing by 0.6 percent compared with the previous three months. At its meeting last week the Bank of Japan left unchanged the amount of assets it is buying in its quantitative-easing program, which forms the backbone of the central bank's efforts to end Japan's deflationary spiral.

Cheaper petrol and a supermarket price-war helped push Britain's headline rate of inflation down again, to 0.3 percent. The Bank of England and the government have welcomed "lowflation" as a real benefit to households. The central bank has even predicted that inflation could turn negative in the coming months.

The eurozone's GDP increased by 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 compared with the third. Not great, but still better than had been expected. Germany's economy confounded the pessimists by chalking up growth of 0.7 percent.

HSBC's tribulations showed little sign of abating, as Swiss prosecutors raided the bank's offices in Geneva as part of an inquiry into claims of "aggravated money laundering." This came a week after an investigative report published separate allegations against HSBC's Swiss bankers of helping wealthy clients avoid taxes.

Jonathan Hill, the European Union's new financial services commissioner, presented the outline of a plan to create a "capital markets union" that seeks to make small- and medium-sized businesses less reliant on Europe's enfeebled banks for funding.

Kaspersky Lab, a cybersecurity firm based in Moscow, reported that a criminal gang with members from Russia, China and Ukraine had hacked into bank systems in 30 countries and stolen up to $1 billion. It did not name any of the banks that it says were targeted, and none has come forward to confirm they were robbed.

Po­lit­i­cal ec­on­omy

Fierce fighting continued in southeastern Ukraine despite the recent "cease-fire" agreed in Minsk. Under continuing heavy attack from pro-Russian rebels, the Ukrainian government pulled its troops back from the contested town of Debaltseve. Western leaders called in vain on Russia's Vladimir Putin to persuade the rebels to respect the cease-fire that Russia had accepted.

In two attacks, a gunman of Palestinian descent fatally shot two people in Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, one of them a guard outside a synagogue, before himself being killed by police. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that Jews were not safe in Europe and invited them to move to Israel.

The Socialist government in France pushed through liberalizing reforms by decree, meaning they pass in parliament unless the government loses a vote of confidence. Despite having to resort to such forceful tactics, French leaders promised more reforms in the spring.

Italy's foreign minister linked the surge in migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Libya's slide into chaos. More than 5,300 migrants arrived on Italian shores in the first six weeks of the year, a 60 percent rise over the same period last year.

In Libya jihadists aligned with Islamic State in Iraq and Levant released video footage showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians who had previously been taken captive. Egypt responded by conducting airstrikes on what it said were weapons stores and training facilities operated by ISIL in Libya, and claimed it had killed dozens of militants as "retribution."

China announced that another high-ranking official will be put on trial for graft. Su Rong is a former vice chairman of an advisory body to China's parliament. He had previously served as the Communist Party's chief in the southern province of Jiangxi, where he is alleged to have traded government jobs for money.

Myanmar declared a state of emergency in the Kokang region after an outbreak of fighting between the army and ethnic minority rebels, which has forced thousands of people to flee across China's border. The violence began after an exiled rebel leader returned after five years in China.