European stocks recede as ministers meet on Greece

Europe's main stock markets weakened on Monday in cautious deals as eurozone finance ministers met again to discuss the release of the next slice of Greece's bailout cash, dealers said.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index shed 0.52 percent to 5,789.14 points in afternoon trade in London, as Frankfurt's DAX 30 retreated 0.28 percent to 7,288.69 points and the Paris CAC 40 dropped 0.64 percent to 3,506.24.

The European single currency was stable at $1.2974 compared to $1.2973 late in New York on Friday. On the London Bullion Market, gold prices rose to $1,747.25 an ounce from $1,734.50 on Friday.

Eurozone finance ministers met on Monday for the third time in two weeks on immediate funding to avert Greece going bankrupt and to deal with the country's ever-growing mountain of debt.

Greece has been waiting since June for a loan instalment of 31.2 billion euros ($40 billion) to avoid running out of money sometime around the end of the year.

The funds are part of a back-up 130-billion-euro rescue granted early this year.

"Undoubtedly, Greece will take the centre of the stage today again, as yet another summit will try to reach agreement on the financial assistance program for the troubled country," said trader Anita Paluch at Gekko Global Markets.

"The meeting continues after officials failed to deliver last week a sound solution.

"Although officially no one wants to discuss any haircuts to the debt, as this is politically very unpalatable, a debt waiver is being eyed (in talks on how) to bring Greek debt to sustainable levels."

In company news, top Barclays shareholder Qatar Holding said in a statement that the group had sold its remaining warrants in the London-listed lender, but added that its 6.7-percent stake was not affected.

However in reaction, Barclays share price dropped 5.0 percent to 241.35 pence, leading the list of falling stocks on London's FTSE 100.

"Qatar Holding have exercised their warrants into stock -- long-term option contracts -- in Barclays, which they got their hands on at the height of the banking crisis, and offloaded the stock," said TJ Markets analyst Manoj Ladwa.

"They still remain holders of their core position and seem to be taking a significant profit out of the trade."

Meanwhile the showdown between global steel giant ArcelorMittal and France over its Florange plant hit new heights on Monday as a minister threatened to temporarily nationalise the site and said the company was no longer welcome in the country.

Newspaper Le Monde quoted members of the Mittal family as saying they were "extremely shocked" by Montebourg's remarks.

A source close to the matter said company chief Lakshmi Mittal was to meet President Francois Hollande on Tuesday ahead of a deadline Saturday for France to find a buyer for two shuttered blast furnaces at the site in northeast of the country.

France says it has two offers, but only for the entire site, and Mittal has refused to sell the full operation.

ArcelorMittal's shares were down 0.90 percent to 11.61 euros in afternoon trading on the Paris stock exchange.

US stocks opened lower with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 0.57 percent to 12,935.41 points after five minutes of trade.

The broad-market S&P 500 index lost 0.51 percent to 1,402.00 points, while the Nasdaq Composite slid 0.26 percent to 2,959.056 points.

Elsewhere on Monday, Asian markets were mixed as investors also awaited the outcome of the eurozone gathering, and amid a simmering budgetary impasse in Washington.

Tokyo rose 0.24 percent and Sydney gained 0.25 percent, but Seoul fell 0.15 percent, Shanghai slid 0.49 percent and Hong Kong closed down 0.24 percent.

Investors are also looking out for news of a compromise in Washington that will avert the so-called fiscal cliff of spending cuts and tax hikes, which will likely send the economy into recession if it comes into effect.

Finding a new spending deal to replace the package, scheduled to come into effect on January 1, has been elusive in the bitterly-divided US Congress.

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