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U.S. Default Prospects Stalk Global Stock Markets

Global stock markets fell on Monday amid growing concern about a potential U.S. default if lawmakers fail to agree a crucial deficit-cutting budget, dealers said.

Investor sentiment was also shaken after Moody's ratings agency sharply downgraded Greek debt -- and warned that the Eurozone rescue was almost certain to trigger another one-notch cut to default status.

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HSBC Left Red-Faced by Flawed Hong Kong Dollar Notes

HSBC Hong Kong on Monday apologized for printing a batch of flawed HK$100 ($12.8) notes depicting the petals of the Bauhinia flower -- the city's emblem -- pointing in the wrong direction.

HSBC is the largest banknote issuer in the southern Chinese city accounting for around 65 percent of those in circulation, according to the Hong Kong unit of the giant British banking group.

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Honda to Recall 200,000 Cars Globally

Japan's Honda Motor said Monday it would recall about 200,000 passenger cars globally due to defective engine parts.

The company said it had received 63 customer reports in Japan of engine malfunctions as a result of the defect, but said none had led to accidents.

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Iran Inks Gas Pipeline Deal with Iraq and Syria

Iran, Iraq and Syria inked on Monday a Memorandum of Understanding for the construction of pipelines designed to deliver Iran's natural gas to the two Arab nations, local media reported.

"The overall cost of the project is estimated around $10 billion," deputy oil minister and chairman of the Iranian National Gas Company (NIGC), Javad Ouji, was quoted by the Mehr news agency as saying after the signing ceremony.

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World Bank Pledges $500 Million for Drought-stricken Horn of Africa

The World Bank on Monday pledged more than $500 million (348 million euros) to aid the drought-stricken Horn of Africa region, as United Nations aid chiefs met in Rome to discuss ramping up relief efforts.

The bulk of the money will go towards long-term projects to aid livestock farmers while $12 million will be for immediate assistance to those worst hit by the crisis and facing starvation, the World Bank said in a statement.

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Dow Jones Editor Reminds Reporters of Ethics Code

Dow Jones editor-in-chief Robert Thomson, the American flagship of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, has reminded journalists that they must follow a code of ethics in a memo to all staff.

In the wake of the phone hacking scandal that has felled the Murdoch-owned British tabloid News of the World, Thomson said Dow Jones reporters needed to be alert "and hold ourselves to higher standards of probity than other news organizations."

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Obama Hosts Last-Ditch Debt Talks

U.S. President Barack Obama met with congressional leaders Saturday for last-ditch White House talks on forging a deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling, officials said.

The talks with Democrats Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi as well as Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell broke up after about 50 minutes.

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Iraq Begins Pumping Through Al-Ahdab Oil Pipeline

Iraq began pumping crude Saturday through a pipeline connecting the central Al-Ahdab oil field to export terminals in the south, Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said, adding that exports would begin August 1.

"The actual pumping into the pipeline began today with 40,000 barrels per day from the Al-Ahdab oil field," Shahristani told Agence France Presse, adding that within days the volume would increase to 60,000 bpd.

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Suzuki Frustrated with VW, Mulls Turning to Fiat

Japanese automaker Suzuki is getting increasingly frustrated with its larger partner Volkswagen and is eying deeper ties with Italian giant Fiat, German media said Saturday.

"The cooperation with Fiat has been going well in a climate of mutual trust for years," a senior Suzuki executive told the Automobilwoche weekly.

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'Very Real' Risk of U.S. Rating Drop

The United States runs a "very real" risk of losing its top triple-A rating if nothing is done to reduce the ballooning deficit, an official said Friday after debt talks collapsed.

Republicans in the House of Representatives abruptly closed the door on acrimonious negotiations with President Barack Obama on raising the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt ceiling.

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