European markets closed down on Monday afternoon as investors focused on the potential impact that trade barriers could have on global growth. The pan-European STOXX 600 ended 0.17 percent lower with most sectors and major bourses in negative territory.
Oil and gas stocks led the losses as oil prices moved lower after increased pressure on the commodity from U.S. drilling activity in an already bloated market. Brent was trading at $51.73 a barrel, down 0.06 percent, while U.S. WTI stood at $48.41 per barrel, 0.8 percent lower.
Britain’s Tullow Oil was trading close to the bottom of the European benchmark after announcing plans last week to raise £607 million ($750 million) in order to reduce a debt burden. Its shares provisionally closed 2.3 percent lower.
Unilever is reportedly preparing a £6 billion ($7.44 billion) sale of some of its food brands, according to U.K. newspapers on Saturday. Its shares moved 0.36 percent higher.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. markets were trading mostly higher as money managers digested comments from U.S. Federal Reserve officials that showed some divergence within the central bank regarding rate hikes.
The Nasdaq composite hit a fresh all-time high in mid-morning trade before holding about 0.1 percent higher.
Brexit with its limitations
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger article 50 on March 29, her spokesperson said on Monday. This will start the 2-year countdown to Britain leaving the European Union. May is also poised to make a Commons statement on the same day.
Sterling rose to a three-week high against the dollar on Monday after the G-20 appeared to buckle under increased pressure from the U.S. administration by omitting what would usually be a typical reference to fighting protectionism. However, the U.K. currency was relatively unmoved on the Brexit news having rose past $1.24 shortly after the open.
On Monday, France is poised to hold its first televised presidential debate with major candidates expected to discuss a range of issues as April’s first-round vote draws ever closer.
Elsewhere, euro area finance ministers gathered for a Eurogroup meeting in order to discuss developments relating to the second review of Greece’s macroeconomic adjustment plan.