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European stocks close lower as investors await Brexit plan; Essilor up by 11% on merger news

European stocks closed lower on Monday as investors awaited more detail on the U.K.'s Brexit plan and the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump in the U.S. later this week.

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The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended 0.81 percent lower with almost all sectors and bourses trading in negative territory.

In corporate news, the Italian eyewear giant Luxottica and Essilor of France have reached a 46 billion euro ($49 billion) merger deal, Reuters reported. They both finished trade among the top of the European index, Essilor was up by more than 11 percent and Luxottica was up by more than 8 percent.

Hugo Boss was also near the top of the European index, up by more than 7.7 percent, after reporting preliminary sale figures for 2016.

Banking and insurance stocks were among the worst performers during European trade, down by more than 1.4 percent. Italian banks led the declines, ranking close to the bottom of the banking index, after the Canadian rating agency DBRS cut the country's grade to BBB from A.

Auto stocks fell more than 1.3 percent on Monday, with the Italian Fiat Chrysler near the bottom of the European index, down by more than 4.1 percent. The U.K.'s transport ministry said it would test the brand's Jeep Grand Cherokee on doubts over diesel emissions. President-elect Donald Trump said he would impose a border tax of 35 percent on cars that BMW intends to build in Mexico. BMW was down by more than 1.4 percent.

Retail stocks also ended lower on Monday. The Stockholm retailer H&M reported a 6 percent year-on-year rise in sales, the slowest pace since last September and below expectations, Reuters reported. Its shares were down by more than 2.7 percent.

Meanwhile, markets were closed in the U.S. as the country celebrated Martin Luther King Day.

'Hard Brexit'

The pound fell to a three-month low on Monday as investor concerns increased after speculation Prime Minister Theresa May is poised to outline plans for a "hard Brexit" during a speech scheduled for Tuesday. Over the weekend, the U.K.'s finance minister Phillip Hammond told a German newspaper that if Britain doesn't keep its access to the EU's single market, London would pursue a new "economic model."

Oil prices edged slightly lower on Monday amidst anxiety among investors that large crude producers would not adhere to OPEC's production cut.

Brent crude traded at around $55.38 a barrel on Monday shortly after the European close, down 0.16 percent, while U.S. crude was around $52.24 a barrel, down 0.23 percent.

Euro zone exports rose in November, exceeding the number of imports by 25.9 billion euros ($27.6 billion), the European statistics office said Monday.

Monday signaled the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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