European shares closed lower lower on Monday, with basic resources stocks weighing heavily on bourses after weak data from China over the weekend.
China data weighs
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index ended the first day of the week in negative territory, provisionally closing down 0.5 percent to 1,320.27 points. It took direction from Asia, where Chinese data curbed investor sentiment.
Chinese exports tumbled 18.1 percent in February, while imports rose 10.1 percent from a year earlier, producing a trade deficit of $23 billion, data released on Saturday showed.
That compared with market expectations in a Reuters poll of a rise of 6.8 percent in exports, an 8 percent rise in imports and a trade surplus of $14.5 billion.
U.S. stocks fell also on Monday, dragging the S&P 500 down from its latest record-high, as the China data had investors fretting about the health of the global economy.
(Track: US shares live)
Chris Gaffney, a senior market strategist at EverBank, said Wall Street's decline reflection the data from China — the world's second biggest economy.
"China's exports dropped pretty startling, and the Chinese are again dropping the value of their currency, which has investors worrying about the global recovery," said Gaffney.
Mining stocks in Europe — which are heavily exposed to China — traded lower on Monday, with Anglo American closing down 2.2 percent lower, as well as Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Fresnillo and Glencore Xstrata all posting declines.
Gains at British American Tobacco and Rolls-Royce allowed the FTSE 100 to pare some losses, but the British index still declined, hitting its lowest level since mid-February during the session. It closed unofficially down 0.5 percent.
Ukraine in focus
Developments in Ukraine — which dominated markets last week — continued to be monitored by investors, with most European indexes swinging lower on Monday afternoon after the Interfax news agency reported Russian troops opened fire during a takeover of a Ukrainian naval post in Crimea.
The news agency also reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a rebuke to Putin on Sunday, telling him that the planned Moscow-backed referendum was illegal.
On the data front, French industrial output numbers showed a decline of 0.2 percent for January, which met analysts' expectations. The figures for Italy — on a seasonally adjusted basis — showed a rise of 1.0 percent for January, beating estimates of a 0.4 percent rise.
In other stocks news, flavorings company Symrise saw its shares fall 3.3 percent after releasing its 2013 earnings. Traders said that both its net-profit and dividend had failed to meet expectations. However, shares turned around to closed higher by 2.8 percent.
Meanwhile, U.S. fruit distributor Chiquita Brands International Inc is to buy Irish rival Fyffes, in an all-stock deal valued at $526 million to create the world's biggest banana supplier. Shares of Fyffes climbed 45 percent on the news.
(Read more: New deal creates world's largest banana supplier)
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