The Bank of Japan has joined to ECB in moving interest rates below zero - the BoJ set the rate for some deposits being held by the central bank at -0.1% following a monetary policy meeting that concluded on Friday. +
The unexpected decision passed by 5 votes to 4 and means that commercial banks will effectively be charged to hold money at the central bank in an effort to encourage them to lend more money.
The Bank of Japan, which has been engaging in a huge monetary easing programme under Governor Haruhiko Kuroda as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's 'Abenomics' programme, did not rule out lowering rates further.
The central bank said it was yet again delaying the forecast for when inflation might reach its target of 2%, to the first half of the 2017 fiscal year, because of declining oil prices.
Data released on Friday showed consumer prices, excluding fresh food, were close to zero (0.1%) in December. *
Industrial profits by selected sector in 2015
Profits at large industrial firms in China fell 4.7% year on year in December according to data released on Wednesday, accelerating on November's decline of 1.4%.
For all of 2015, industrial profits were 6,355.4 billion yuan - a 2.3% decrease on 2014.
A breakdown of the data by industry, provided by the National Bureau of Statistics, reveals that the profits of firms in the mining and quarry sector dived 58.2% in 2015.
The manufacturing sectors saw industrial profits rise 2.8% over the course of the year.
Stock exchanges on mainland China closed down on Tuesday as the volatility that has characterised the market this month reemerged.
The Shanghai Composite Index closed down 6.42%.
The CSI 300, which follows 300 stocks on the Shanghai and Shenzhen indexes, closed down 6.02%.
Meanwhile, oil prices fell below $30 a barrel as the rally of recent days fizzled out.
Year to date performance
The Federal Statistics Service released its first estimate of Russia's GDP growth on Monday morning, reporting that the country's economy contracted by 3.7%. *
Russia has been hit by the fall in commodity prices and by Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the annexation of Crimea and its role in the wider conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Last week, the rouble briefly hit an all time low of 85.97 per dollar.
A purchasing managers index by Markit Economics suggests that economic activity in the euro zone slowed in January.
A flash estimate of the composite PMI for the first month of 2016 came in at 53.5, an 11 month low and down on December's figure of 54.3.
A reading below 50 indicates contraction.
The PMI that focuses solely on services hit a 12 month low, while the manufacturing PMI was at a 3 month low.
Euro area in 2015
A good end to a rough week
Buoyed by news from the ECB on Thursday and the possibility of more easing from the Bank of Japan, markets in Europe and Asia finished the week in positive territory, the euro weakened against the dollar and oil prices climbed above $31 a barrel.
Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, said on Thursday that the bank would 'review and possibly reconsider' its monetary policy stance in March with a view to extending monetary easing in light of increasing downside risks. *