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European stocks close higher ahead of US-China trade talks; Italian banks gain

Key Points
  • Italian lenders got a boost after reports that their capital positions were higher than the levels required by the ECB.
  • Official figures published Monday showed Britain's economy grew at its slowest pace since 2012 last year.
  • A delegation of U.S. officials is set to travel to China for the next round of negotiations this week.

European stocks closed higher on Monday, with market participants looking ahead to a fresh round of U.S.-China trade talks this week.

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally up 0.88 percent, with all sectors and major bourses in positive territory.

Banks sat among the best performers Monday, with Italian lenders getting a boost after reports that their capital positions were higher than the levels required by the European Central Bank. Banco BPM rose 7 percent — to the top of the Stoxx 600 — while UBI Banca climbed nearly 3 percent higher.

Looking at individual stocks, Deutsche Post rose after a report suggested Germany could grant the postal services firm with a higher-than-anticipated increase in postage for letters from the summer. Shares of the postal service advanced over 2 percent.

Meanwhile, Britain's Smith & Nephew slumped close to the bottom of the European benchmark after the Financial Times reported the London-listed company was in talks to buy NuVasive. Shares of the medical devices manufacturer fell 3 percent.

On the data front, official figures published Monday showed Britain's economy grew at its slowest pace since 2012 last year. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the final three months of 2018 slipped to a quarterly rate of 0.2 percent from 0.6 percent in the previous quarter.

The quarterly GDP figures follows a flurry of economic data in recent weeks that suggest businesses and consumers are increasingly nervous about Britain's departure from the European Union next month. Sterling was trading 0.66 percent lower at $1.2862 on the news.

Trade war

On Wall Street, stocks rose at the open, but later pared gains as investors weighed the possibility of the U.S. and China striking a deal to end the ongoing tariff war.

Market focus is largely attuned to global trade developments, with a delegation of U.S. officials set to travel to China for the next round of negotiations this week.

The latest set of trade talks will take place in Beijing from Monday. It comes after discussions in Washington last week concluded without a deal.

Both sides are trying to secure a comprehensive trade agreement ahead of an early March deadline when U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent. President Donald Trump said last week that he would not meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping before said deadline.

Escalating tensions between the world's two largest economies have cost both countries billions of dollars and roiled global financial markets.