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Europe ends in the red as central banks dominate sentiment; earnings, oil eyed

European markets closed in the red on Monday as investors remained cautious ahead of an upcoming European Central Bank (ECB) meeting, while digesting fresh earnings and keeping an eye on oil.

The pan-European STOXX 600 finished down 0.74 percent provisionally, with all sectors ending in the red.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 closed down 0.94 percent, while the French CAC 40 and German DAX finished down 0.46 and 0.73 percent respectively.

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European stocks followed the cautious tone set in both Asia and in the U.S., as traders mulled future policy decisions by major central banks.

In a speech on Friday, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said policymakers might want to consider the benefits of a "high pressure economy" and let inflation continue to rise. This helped the dollar rise against a basket of major currencies on Monday, touching its highest level since March before paring gains.

Some analysts suggested that Yellen's comments could suggest a looser for longer monetary policy stance, but others said that a December interest rate hike is still on the cards given positive retail sales and employment data from the U.S. in recent weeks.

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Elsewhere in central bank news, the ECB meeting on Thursday is set to cause a stir in markets, with hopes that President Mario Draghi could give some hints as to whether the central bank might extend its quantitative easing program — which is set to end in March 2017. Ahead of the meeting, German's benchmark 10-year bond yield reached its highest level since June on Monday, Reuters reported.

On the oil front, crude prices posted solid losses as concerns over oversupply weighed on sentiment. At Europe's market close, Brent hovered around $51.31, while U.S. WTI last stood around $49.64.

BPM-Banco Popolare get green light for merger; Pearson slides

While all sectors closed lower on Monday, the banking sector only ended down 0.08 percent. The sector was in focus after shareholders approved a merger between Italy's Banco Popolare and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM) on Saturday. Shares of BPM closed down 3 percent while Banco Popolare finished up 0.78 percent.

Other Italian banks got a boost on hopes that this deal will help the overall sector, including Unicredit, which closed up over 2 percent.

The STOXX 600's best performer was Drax Group, which closed up 3.47 percent after it received a price target upgrade from Credit Suisse.

Meanwhile, shares of education firm Pearson fell to the bottom of the STOXX 600, ending 8.4 percent down, after it reported a 7 percent decline in nine-month organic sales, which was worse than the market expected.

Swedish clothing retailer H&M said group sales in September increased by 1 percent with unseasonably warm weather having a negative impact. Shares of H&M finished 2 percent lower. Marine Harvest slipped more than 4 percent, after it cut its output guidance for the year, Reuters reported.

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