European shares look set to open lower on Monday as ongoing unrest in Libya sent U.S. and Brent crude to new 2-1/2 year highs.
According to BGC Partners, the UK's FTSE index will open 17 points lower at 5,970, while Germany's DAX index could fall 41 points to 7,137 and France's CAC index may open about 20 points lower at 4,000.
European shares ended their second straight weekin the red on Friday after U.S. jobs data failed to meet the market hype and fighting in Libya pushed oil prices higher, with French retailer Carrefour among the top decliners.
With no economic data due for release on Monday, stocks face a key stress test as the Middle Eastern political crisis, rising oil prices and expectations for higher interest rates dampen investors' optimism.
Saudi Arabia's stock markets, largely dominated by domestic investors, plunged to fresh 22-month lows last week as concerns intensified ahead of planned protests in the top oil exporter this Friday.
European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet holds a press conference after a central bankers' meeting at the Bank of International Settlements in Basel at 11:30 London time.
His comments Thursday hinting that an interest rate hike could come as soon as April sent the euro sharply higher last week, but some economists expressed concern over the impact a rate hike might have on struggling peripheral economies.
Economist Nouriel Roubini told CNBC Friday a rate hike in April would be "a mistake", warning that such a move risked widening the gap between struggling periphery economies and the stronger ones at the center of the euro zone.
Later this week the focus will shift to the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee meeting Thursday, and to a meeting of euro zone leaders Friday to discuss the violence in Libya and the region's sovereign debt crisis.
At its last meeting in February, the BoE left rates at 0.5 percent and kept the scale of its asset purchase program unchanged at 200 billion pounds. Interest rates have been unchanged since Mar 2009 and analysts expect the bank to leave rates unchanged once again.