For the first time in its 13-year history the European Central Bank appointed a non-German as head of its economics division. Peter Praet has Belgian nationality (but was born in Germany).

The Republican party's primaries season for the US Presidential election opened in the atypical state of Iowa where the pragmatic front-runner Mitt Romney only narrowly defeated the little-known Rick Santorum who received strong support from local social Conservatives and evangelists .

An international tribunal awarded Exxon Mobil US$908 million for assets nationalised by Venezuela in 2007. Exxon had asked for $10 billion but the Venezuelan government said it would pay only $225 million.

Christian Wulff, the German President, faced calls for his resignation after it became known that he had tried to stop a tabloid newspaper from publishing a report about a personal loan he had accepted.

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