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European stocks close mixed on poor US data; Bayer sweetens deal for Monsanto

European stocks seesawed in trade on Tuesday as oil prices slipped and poor U.S. service sector data pushed many markets down.

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed down more than 0.3 percent.


US data in focus

Disappointing U.S. service sector growth hit European trading in the afternoon.

The Institute of Supply Management (ISM) Non-Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index, an indicator of service sector growth, came in under expectations. The August reading was 51.4, lower than the forecast reading of 55.

"When you see the ISM non-manufacturing number dropping like this, it shakes the floor on which traders are building the hopes that the Fed could increase the interest rate," said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets U.K., in a note.

"A few more readings like this, and you can say goodbye to an interest rate hike."

The FTSE100 fell almost 0.8 percent, while French CAC40 index ended 0.2 percent lower, despite being higher earlier in the day.

The German DAX manged to stay up, rising just 0.1 percent, partly thanks to progress in merger talks between Bayer and Monsanto.

Bayer sweetens Monsanto offer

In European corporate news, German drugmaker Bayer is hoping that a sweetened takeover offer will win over U.S. seed producer Monsanto, putting more than $65 billion on the table in a bid to buy the agro-chemical firm. Bayer said it was in advanced talks with its rival and would be prepared to offer $127.50 per Monsanto share from its previous offer price of $125 per share only in connection with a negotiated deal, Reuters reported. Bayer shares reversed losses to trade higher.

Easyjet shares closed higher after it reported that the number of passengers using its service in August was 7.5 million versus 7.1 million a year ago.

Deutsche Telekom denied a report by German newspaper Handelsblatt that it is considering restructuring which could include thousands of job cuts, calling the story "nonsense". Shares were higher.

Aegon shares fell 2 percent after it announced that its chief financial officer, Darryl Button, is stepping down and returning to the U.S. after 17 years with the Dutch financial services company. Aegon said the selection process for his successor has begun.

Ingenico shares tanked nearly 14 percent after the French company cut its 2016 targets.

US markets open lower

U.S. stocks opened lower following the disappointing PMI data. Market watchers questioned whether or not the economy was ready for a September interest rate rise.

"The data, in combination with weak manufacturing data and a slowdown in jobs growth would suggest the U.S. economy is ill-equipped for a rate hike in September," said Jasper Lawler, market analyst, CMC Markets, in a note.

"Until Fed speakers confirm that they are interpreting the U.S. economic slowdown in August as a reason to tread carefully in tightening monetary policy, U.S. stocks could come under pressure."

The dollar was also hit by the data. The currency fell more than 1 percent against the yen, while euro and sterling climbed 0.7 percent and 0.9 percent respectively against the greenback,

M&A activity boosts stocks

General Electric's (GE) Swedish arm made a $695 million bid for 3D printing firm Arcam on Tuesday, while GE's German unit made a separate bid for SLM Solutions.

Meanwhile, German healthcare group Fresenius jumped to the top of the STOXX 600 after it announced plans to buy Spanish hospital chain Quironsalud for 5.76 billion euros ($6.42 billion). Shares rose 6.4 percent.

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