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Europe Closes Slightly Lower in Shortened Session

European stocks closed slightly lower in a shortened day of trading on Monday. The FTSE 100 index was the main exception closing higher by 0.24 percent.

Among the best performing stocks in London were miners Xstrata and Vedanta Resources both rising above 1 percent, while shares of BT Group and British American Tobacco weighed on the index.

Stock markets across the region saw a partial day of trading ahead of the Christmas holiday. The London Stock Exchange closed at 12:30 p.m. local time, the NYSE Euronext and French stocks closed at 1 p.m. London time (2 p.m. CET), while in Germany, Italy and Switzerland markets were closed for the day. As a result, trading volumes remained thin.

Asian stocks were also range-bound in quiet pre-holiday trade on Monday, with prices capped by nervousness about the risk of the United States failing to avert a fiscal crisis.

U.S. "fiscal cliff" talks between Republicans and Democrats remain deadlocked and both the House and Senate are currently on their Christmas break, while President Obama is on holiday with his family in Hawaii. Some analysts now expect only stop-gap measures to avert a full-blown crisis, though time is running out before $600 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts kick in on January 1st.

In news from the euro zone, Mario Monti, who resigned as Italy's Prime Minister on Friday, said he would consider leading the next government, if he was approached by allies.

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Monti hit back at former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and said Italy's reform agenda must continue. Polls are to be held on February 24th.

"Mr Monti may have decided not to run for office, but he has made it crystal clear where his political allegiances lie and that he's ready to head Italy's next government if asked," Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy wrote in a note on Sunday. "While he may not have thrown his hat into the ring,Il Professore has become Il Politico whether he likes it or not."

In stocks news, London Stock Exchange announced it had reached a deal to buy a majority stake in LCH.Clearnet for 15 euros a share, down about 4 euros a share from the agreement reached in April. LSE shares finished the day 0.3 percent higher on the news.