Japan’s economy, the world’s second-largest, contracted an annualized 2.4 percent in the last quarter, as consumer spending and exports both fell. (MarketWatch) The Bank of England also warned today that an “economic chill” will cut Britain’s growth to a near-flat 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009. The forecast, plus a rise in unemployment, to a 16-year high, sent the British pound to a 21-month low against the U.S. dollar. (Bloomberg)