European stocks tread water amid EU talks on Greece

European stock markets and the euro treaded water on Monday as EU ministers met over Greek debt but were unlikely to release critically needed bailout funds.

London's FTSE 100 index of top companies edged down a mere 0.04 percent to 5,767.27 points, while in Frankfurt the DAX 30 ended up just 0.07 percent to 7,168.76 points, and in Paris the CAC 40 slid 0.35 percent lower to 3,411.65 points.

"European markets have struggled for direction today, not surprising given the backdrop of denial and delay in dealing with the problems of Greeces financial situation, ahead of todays latest EU finance ministers meeting," said CMC Markets UK analyst Michael Hewson.

Going into the meeting, Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the Eurogroup of finance ministers, said Greece has "delivered" on its economic reform pledges and a long-awaited report from its troika of creditors -- the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund -- is "positive".

But Germany said only part of the troika's latest report was available, and a final decision was not immediately expected on a fresh aid tranche of 31.5 billion euros ($40 billion) held back since June.

Athens has said it needs the money by the end of the week or it faces defaulting on a bond repayment.

Ministers were also expected to discuss giving Greece an extra two years to meet its fiscal targets, and where to find the extra 32.6 billion euros this is expected to cost.

In foreign exchange activity, the euro edged up to $1.2716 from $1.2709 late in New York on Friday.

Gold prices dipped to $1,735.25 an ounce from $1,738.25 on Friday.

US stocks opened with modest gains after last week's slump, lifted by encouraging China trade data that signalled renewed momentum in the world's second-biggest economy, but quickly lost steam.

In midday trade the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.16 percent to 12,794.85 points.

The broader S&P 500 Index dipped 0.12 percent to 1,378.14 points and the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 0.22 percent to 2,898.45 points.

Asian markets closed mixed earlier in the day as news that Japan's economy shrank in the third quarter and fears over the US "fiscal cliff" offset another round of healthy Chinese data, traders said.

In the United States, rival politicians must reach a deal by January 1 to avoid the shock of $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax hikes which observers say would tip the country back into recession.

Meanwhile, indications that the Chinese economy is emerging from a drawn-out slumber were reinforced on Saturday when figures showed that exports rose 11.6 percent year-on-year in October, following a near 10 percent jump in September.

The numbers, which were released as the Communist Party holds its 18th Congress and prepares for a once-a-decade leadership transition, came a day after officials said Chinese industrial output had surged last month.

However, while the Chinese economy continues to show signs of a resurgence, Japan said its gross domestic product had shrunk 0.9 percent in the July-September period from the previous three months.

Japan also posted its worst September trade figures for 30 years as exports slumped, with analysts blaming the continued strength of the yen, a territorial spat with Beijing and the debilitating debt crisis in Europe.

"News at the weekend that the Chinese trade surplus hit a four-year high... has helped assuage concerns that the Chinese economy is slipping back," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

burs-rl/wai

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