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European Markets Finish Little Changed Ahead Of French Debate

The European markets dipped at the open Monday, but remained locked in a narrow range throughout the session. The majority of the markets ended the session in the red, but none strayed too far from the flat line. Investors were in a cautious mood ahead of tonight's Presidential debate in France.

Traders were concerned over global trade, after the G20 struck a protectionists tone in its statement concluding last weekend's meeting. Echoing recent remarks from U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the nation wanted certain conditions met.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will invoke the Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty next Wednesday, March 29, thus formally beginning the process of exiting the European Union and paving the way for talks on trade and future relations, which should conclude in two years.

UK's Ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow informed European Council President Donald Tusk of the government's intention to trigger Article 50 earlier on Monday, Brexit Secretary David Davis said in a statement.

"This meets the UK's longstanding commitment to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017," Davis said.

"We are on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation."

The UK government is seeking "a deal that works for every nation and region of the UK and indeed for all of Europe - a new, positive partnership between the UK and our friends and allies in the European Union," Davis added.

The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index weakened by 0.17 percent. The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone blue chip stocks decreased 0.30 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, lost 0.21 percent.

The DAX of Germany dropped 0.35 percent and the CAC 40 of France fell 0.34 percent. The FTSE 100 of the U.K. gained 0.07 percent, but the SMI of Switzerland finished lower by 0.04 percent.

In Frankfurt, Deutsche Bank dropped 2.74 percent after the bank fixed the total proceeds from its capital increase against cash contributions at 8.0 billion euros.

In Paris, Ingenico tumbled 3.08 percent after IT consulting firm Atos denied media reports that it was preparing an offer for the payments company.

In London, BHP Billiton rose 0.19 percent as a 39-day strike at La Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, looked set to drag on for more weeks.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group declined 1.76 percent on reports that it is in talks with former shareholders to resolve claims relating to its GBP12.00 billion cash-call in 2008.

Unilever advanced 0.64 percent after reports that it is preparing to sell some of its food brands in a 6 billion pounds or $7.4 billion deal, partly in response to the recently rejected takeover offer from Kraft Heinz.

Associated British Foods increased 1.64 percent after Goldman Sachs upgraded its rating on the stock to "Buy" from "Neutral."

UBS Group lost 0.94 percent in Zurich after saying it is facing a trial in France over a tax case.

The Eurozone job vacancy rate increased in the fourth quarter, Eurostat reported Monday. The job vacancy rate rose marginally to 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter from 1.6 percent a quarter ago.

Eurozone hourly labor cost grew at a faster pace in the fourth quarter, figures from Eurostat showed Monday. Hourly labor cost increased 1.6 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter, faster than the 1.4 percent rise a quarter ago.

Germany's producer prices increased at the fastest pace in more than five years in February, figures from Destatis showed Monday.

Producer prices advanced 3.1 percent in February from prior year, the fastest since December 2011, when prices gained 3.5 percent. Prices had climbed 2.4 percent in January.

Nonetheless, the annual rate was slightly slower than the 3.2 percent rise economists had forecast.

The average asking prices for a house in the United Kingdom increased further in March, the latest survey from property tracking website Rightmove showed on Monday. House prices in England and Wales climbed 1.3 percent month-over-month in March, following a 2.0 percent rise in February.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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