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Global trade fell to its lowest level since the financial crisis last year on the back of weaker demand from emerging markets and the slump in China. The value of goods that crossed international borders in 2015 fell 13.8 per cent in dollar terms, the first contraction since 2009, highlighting rising fears about the health of the global economy. (FT)

In the news

Trump trampled Donald Trump was skewered in the Republican presidential debate ahead of Super Tuesday, as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz hammered the tycoon on everything from hiring illegal immigrants for the construction of Trump Tower, to his “fake” Trump University, to his decision to donate money to John Kerry during the 2004 presidential race. (FT)

Brexit battles George Osborne is pushing the Group of 20 leading economies to warn about the dangers of the UK leaving the EU. People close to Mr Osborne say he hopes a G20 endorsement for Britain staying in the EU will be an important outcome of the Shanghai meeting of finance ministers. (FT)

European tensions mount The decision by Austria and nine Balkan states to choke off the flow of migrants across their borders has prompted fury in Berlin, although ironically the new border controls could help Chancellor Angela Merkel by stemming numbers crossing into Germany. Elsewhere, Greece withdrew its ambassador to Austria. (FT)

Deadlock The FBI demand that Apple help it break into the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter breaches its constitutional rights, the Silicon Valley company argued in a legal response on Thursday. (FT)

US and China to toughen North Korea sanctions An agreement to stiffen international financial sanctions against Pyongyang marks a major shift for Beijing, which has long protected its isolated ally. (NYT, FT)

Japanese population falls The population stood at 127,110,047 in October last year, according to the latest census reading — a 0.7 per cent drop from five years earlier and the first decline since the inaugural survey in 1920. (NAR)

It’s a big day for

Ireland, which holds a general election. But voters are having a crisis of faith: despite Ireland being the fastest growing EU economy last year, many are unconvinced a recovery will last. A hung Dáil is suggested by opinion polls. Iranians also vote today in parliamentary elections.(FT, NYT)

Food for thought

Brexit: Fraying union The potential departure of the UK may simply be the first domino to fall. In recent years, some rightwing parties from Europe have made pilgrimages to Britain to study how Euroscepticism became part of the mainstream dialogue. (FT)

The Kurdish key Kurds are key to a Middle East solution as they hold the balance of power in Iraq and Syria, as well as being in the midst of an insurrection in Turkey. The US needs the Kurds as much as it needs the Turks in its efforts to defeat Isis. (FT)

Sent down Should professors be fired for damaging the reputation of their institution? Dismissing faculty members who are perceived as harmful is a growing trend in the US. (The Atlantic)

What Google learned in trying to build the perfect team Its quest for optimisation revealed some surprising truths about why some work groups thrive and others falter. (NYT)

Virtual reality: the opiate for the masses? Mark Zuckerberg has been singing the praises of the burgeoning technology. But will it make our lives better, or turn us into mindless drones? (Wired, Slate)

Video of the day

The BoJ is not alone in turning to sub-zero interest rates. FT comment editor Frederick Studemann and capital markets editor Dan McCrum talk to Gabriel Stein, director of asset management services at Oxford Economics, about a possible trend. (FT)

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