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European, US stock markets hit pause at start of big week

Will British Prime Minister Boris Johnson be able to secure an absolute majority in the election on Thursday?

European and US stock markets eased on Monday at the start of a key week for China-US trade hopes and ahead of Britain's general election. The dollar wobbled against its main rivals ahead of the final monetary policy meeting of the year of the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, sterling drifted higher awaiting Thursday's UK election that is expected to see Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives win a big enough majority to push through his Brexit deal. "In a week to remember, it was a session to forget," said Connor Campbell, analyst at Spreadex trading group, adding that investors were "not unjustified in their reticence to act." While observers widely expect Beijing and Washington to hammer out a partial tariffs agreement, trading floors remained nervous places with less than a week until the United States is due to impose fresh levies on Chinese goods. "Though Wednesday has the final Fed statement of the year, it is going to be hard for American investors –- and investors in general –- to wrench their attentions away from the state of play between the US and China heading into Sunday’s tariff deadline," said Campbell. "So pressing is that matter that Thursday’s UK general election is more of a local sideshow than the week’s big macro event," he added. On the corporate front Monday, shares in Tullow Oil, a London-listed independent oil producer in Africa, plummeted by 71 percent after the company cut its production forecast, froze dividend payments and its CEO resigned. Shares in British supermarket giant Tesco topped the gainers board for London's blue chip FTSE 100 index, having shot up 4.5 percent after Britain's biggest retailer said it was looking at exiting its Thai and Malaysian businesses. Sanofi stock shed two percent after the French pharmaceutical giant said it had agreed to buy US biotech firm Synthorx, boosting its immuno-oncology portfolio. ArQule, which has been developing cancer medications, more than doubled after it agreed to be acquired by Merck for $2.7 billion. Merck dipped 0.2 percent. In the commodities markets, oil prices retreated on profit-taking after Friday's healthy gains on the decision by OPEC and non-cartel producers led by Russia to cut output by a further 500,000 barrels a day. Downbeat Chinese trade data over the weekend also gave reason to sell as it reminded traders that slowing growth is why oil producers are cutting output. - Key figures around 2150 GMT - New York - Dow: DOWN 0.4 percent at 27,909.60 (close) New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,135.96 (close) New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.4 percent at 8,621.83 (close) London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,233.90 (close) Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.5 percent at 13,105.61 (close) Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.6 percent at 5,837.25 (close) EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,672.18 (close) Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 23,430.70 (close) Hong Kong - Hang Seng: FLAT at 26,494.73 (close) Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 2,914.48 (close) Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1065 from $1.1060 at 2200 GMT on Friday Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3148 from $1.3140 Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.16 pence from 84.17 pence Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.56 yen from 108.58 yen Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.2 percent at $64.25 per barrel West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.3 percent at $59.02 per barrel burs-jmb/dg