Europe stocks close lower as US-China trade talks begin; Centrica down 4%

Key Points
  • European markets closed lower on Monday amid concerns over economic growth, Brexit and the U.S. government shutdown.
  • New figures showed that industrial orders in Germany dropped by more than expected in November, Reuters reported.

Stocks in Europe closed lower on Monday, erasing earlier gains seen on the back of trade talks between the U.S. and China.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down 0.3 percent, with sectors pointing in different directions. Technology was the best performer, up 1.5 percent, while the worst performing sector was household goods, which shed 1.1 percent.

Concerns over economic growth, Brexit and the U.S. government shutdown were seen curbing investor sentiment. Earlier in the session, stocks were actually higher as two days of trade talks between the U.S. and China began. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Monday that the two economic superpowers were likely to reach a good settlement over immediate trade issues, although he warned that longer-term problems would prove more difficult to negotiate.

Centrica ended the session as the third-worst performing company, down by more than 4 percent, as Jefferies said the owner of British Gas will likely see earnings come under pressure this year. Heineken dropped 2.5 percent following news that Goldman Sachs had downgraded the stock to a "sell" rating.

Furthermore, Alstom was down by almost 2 percent after French newspaper Les Echo reported that the Alstom-Siemens rail deal was unlikely to be approved by European authorities. The European Commission has said it will announce its decision on the deal in mid-February.

Stateside, stocks were trading higher on Monday, with all three major bourses in the green. However, the dollar weakened on the back of growing speculation that the Federal Reserve will halt its multi-year rate hike cycle, with the euro gaining 0.6 percent on the U.S. currency.

Meanwhile, Brexit and other political events remain on the radar for investors. Sterling gained some ground on Monday, rising to a one-week high ahead of British lawmakers reconvening later in the week. Investors expect the next two weeks to be highly volatile as parliament prepares to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal agreement.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron is facing continued street demonstrations from the so-called "yellow vest" protestors, while new figures from Germany showed that industrial orders dropped by more than expected in November.