European stocks were muted on Monday as the U.S. and China prepare to sign a so-called “phase one” trade deal on Wednesday, while protests continue in Iran over the downing of a Ukrainian commercial airliner.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 slipped 0.18% by the close, with autos falling almost 1% to lead losses while tech and utilities stocks added 0.34%.
Representatives from Washington and Beijing are expected to sign the first phase of a long-awaited trade accord on Wednesday, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted on Sunday that China’s commitments had not changed during a lengthy translation process. Mnuchin also confirmed that the details will be published this week.
Asian stocks mostly advanced on Monday as investors look ahead to the inking of the deal, with MSCI’s broadest Asia-Pacific index excluding Japan gaining 0.49%.
Tensions in the Middle East have continued as anti-government protests spread across Iran, after the Iranian regime admitted that its armed forces unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane in Tehran, killing 176 people. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the protesters on Sunday.
Back in Europe, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will travel to Northern Ireland on Monday to meet with leaders of the country’s newly-formed executive and his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar.
Sterling fell below $1.30 to a two-week low after Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee member Gertjan Vlieghe indicated that he may vote to cut interest rates if upcoming data fails to show a rebound in the British economy.
Stocks on the move
Pennon Group shares jumped 6% after the Telegraph newspaper reported that the British water company plans to sell its waste arm Viridor. Tullow Oil climbed 5.8% after BMO upgraded the stock to “outperform” and raised its price target.
At the other end of the European benchmark, NMC Health slid 2.9% as Goldman Sachs disclosed an 8.9% stake in the Abu Dhabi-based hospital chain.