European stocks slide as ministers meet on Greece

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

London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies dropped 0.56 percent to 5,786.72 points, while in Frankfurt, the DAX 30 gave up 0.23 percent to 7,292.03 points, and Paris' CAC 40 fell 0.79 percent to 3,500.94 points.

The European single currency slid to $1.2961 compared to $1.2973 late in New York on Friday. On the London Bullion Market, gold prices rose to $1,750.50 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.

"After the strong gains seen last week it was perhaps inevitable that we would see a bit of a pullback ahead of this evening's press conference of Eurogroup finance ministers," said Michael Hewson, Senior Market Analyst at CMC Markets UK.

He said "investors remain cautious as to whether we will see any type of agreement on the latest Greek aid program."

The IMF has been pushing eurozone countries to write off at least part of their loans to Greece to bring the country's debt down to a manageable level, but Germany has led opposition to this politically unpalatable option.

"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," said trader Anita Paluch at Gekko Global Markets.

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 5.4 percent to 240.5 pence.

"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 fell 1.54 percent to 11.53 euros in trading on the Paris stock exchange.

US stocks slumped Monday after breaking a six-week slump with solid gains last week, with the jury still out over how strong the crucial Black Friday holiday sales went for retailers.

In midday trade with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 0.76 percent to 12,911.24 points, the broad-market S&P 500 index lost 0.70 percent to 1,399.35 points, while the Nasdaq Composite slid 0.33 percent to 2,956.97 points.

Also clouding the market were reports that talks over the fiscal cliff remained stuck on key issues, five weeks before the steep spending cuts and tax hikes are programmed to hit the economy.

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.

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