European stocks finished Monday's trading session in negative territory, as investors kept abreast of the latest in politics, including the fallout from elevated Middle East tensions.
The pan-European STOXX 600 ended provisionally down 0.39 percent, with almost all of the region's sectors closing the session lower.
Markets in the region failed to see any signs of a boost from Wall Street, which saw U.S. stocks jump on Monday. Around the close, the Dow rose more than 150 points, lifted by earnings and concerns over Syria showing signs of easing. Asia, meantime, closed relatively mixed.
WPP shares tumble after Sorrell quits
Europe's food and beverages stocks were some of the worst performers amid earnings news. Marine Harvest's plans to operate an experimental fish farm to produce salmon was rejected by Norwegian regulators on Monday. This news followed weaker-than-expected earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) during the first three months of the year. Shares of Marine Harvest slipped almost 1 percent by the close. A number of London-listed consumer groups also closed deep in the red, on the back of a weaker FTSE 100.
Meanwhile, travel and leisure stocks managed to hold onto its gains by the close, after shares of Britain's biggest hotel and coffee shop operator surged to the top of the European benchmark. A unit of U.S. activist hedge fund Elliott Management said it now held the largest stake in Whitbread, Reuters reported. The news prompted its shares to jump more than 7 percent in trade.
Looking at individual stocks, WPP shares — which have already fallen around 30 percent this year — fell 6.5 percent by Monday's close. The world's biggest advertising agency saw its CEO Martin Sorrell quit on Saturday amid allegations of personal misconduct.
Software slipped over 6 percent, despite the company saying it was more confident on sales prospects for its core database unit over the coming six months, Reuters reported. Credit Suisse and Independent Research also cut their price targets on the stock. The news comes shortly after the company released preliminary results late Friday.
Middle East tensions
On Saturday, the U.S., U.K. and France launched more than 100 missiles targeting Syrian government sites in response to a suspected poison gas attack in Douma earlier this month. The joint missile strikes prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to warn western powers that further attacks on the war-torn country could bring chaos to world affairs.
Putin's comments followed reports that Washington is poised to increase pressure on Moscow with fresh economic sanctions on Monday. The U.S. administration is expected to try and punish Russia for propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In commodity markets, oil prices posted sharp losses Monday amid ongoing tensions in the Middle East. At Europe's market close, Brent crude futures were trading down, last standing at $71.41, with WTI also sharply lower. Basic resources stocks also tumbled, with the sector closing down 1.04 percent.