European stocks closed mixed Monday afternoon as investors focused on Italian politics, trade relations between the U.S. and China, and a dip in oil prices.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down 0.05 percent. While major bourses and most sectors were in the red, strong performances from the health care and travel sectors boosted the broader index.
Financial services stocks fell the furthest on Monday, closing 1.1 percent lower. Close behind were telecoms, 0.9 percent lower. The U.K.'s BT was among the poorest performing companies within the sector, down 2.4 percent. Last week the firm announced that it would cut 13,000 jobs in the next three years.
Meanwhile, travel and leisure surged in afternoon trade to close up 1.4 percent. The sector was led by gambling firms Paddy Power Betfair and William Hill, boosted by news of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that would allow for states to legalize sports betting. The firms closed up 11.9 percent and 10.7 percent respectively.
Health care was one of the few other sectors in positive territory, closing up 1 percent. It recovered from last week's slump after President Donald Trump unveiled plans to lower prescription drug prices.
Oil and gas stocks recovered from negative trade earlier on in the day, climbing in the afternoon session to close 0.5 percent higher. In fact, Brent crude hit a new 3-1/2 year high on Monday afternoon, despite push back in Europe and Asia against U.S. sanctions on crude exporter Iran, as well as rising U.S. drilling. Brent crude was trading up 85 cents, or 1.1 percent, at $77.97 a barrel by 3:20 p.m. London time.
Iwg topped the European benchmark, up by 23 percent after three different companies signaled an interest in buying the firm.
The Portuguese energy firm EDP also rose 9 percent by the end of Monday's trade after the Chinese group Three Gorges presented a takeover bid.
ABN Amro fell to the bottom of the index, closing 6 percent lower as the Dutch bank's first-quarter profits took a hit from larger-than-expected loan impairments.
In Europe, the focus was on Italy where the two anti-establishment parties could form the next government. The left-wing Five Star Movement (M5S) and the right-wing Lega met the Italian president Sergio Mattarella Monday afternoon, potentially breaking months of political deadlock. However, as reported by Reuters, the head of Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, asked the president for "a few more days" in order to reach an agreement on who will head the new coalition.
Stocks traded higher on Monday amid hopes of a potential breakthrough in trade tensions between the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 150 points, with UnitedHealth and Walmart as the best-performing stocks in the index. The S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent, with energy, health care and tech outperforming. The Nasdaq composite advanced 0.6 percent.