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US Economic Unease Caps Global Stock Market Gains

British bank HSBC Holdings PLC said Monday it is in talks with financial group Old Mutual PLC to buy a controlling stake in South Africa's fourth largest bank Nedbank Group Ltd. in a deal worth as much as $6.8 billion.

Shares in Australia's Foster's Group Ltd ended 6.5 percent higher on news media reports that SABMiller PLC was preparing a 7 billion pound bid for Foster's beer business.

Even though investors are on the lookout for continued deals, overall sentiment in the markets remains fragile at best. The scale of the negative reaction to some worse than expected second-tier U.S. economic data last week provides clear evidence of where investors' main worries lie.

Foreign exchange markets are among the most affected by the worries over the U.S. economy.

Even though the news out of the U.S. has been broadly disappointing over the last couple of weeks, the dollar does not seem to be suffering, particularly against the euro, because the main fear is that the slowdown in the U.S. will bring growth down everywhere else. A risk-averse trading environment also usually helps the dollar, due to its reputation as a safe-haven currency.

By late afternoon London time, the euro was down 0.3 percent at $1.2656, way down on the four-month high of $1.333 it was trading at just over two weeks ago.

Figures showing that the economic recovery in the eurozone was losing momentum did little to help the euro's fortunes.

The monthly eurozone purchasing managers index â¿¿ a gauge of business activity â¿¿ dropped to 56.1 in August from 56.7 in July. The drop was bigger than anticipated in the markets and shows that growth, though relatively healthy, is slowing â¿¿ anything above 50 indicates expansion.

One of the main points of interest in the markets is what happens in Australia after national elections on Saturday gave neither of the major political parties an outright majority in parliament.

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