Europe ends lower as Greece, Russia weigh

European equities closed lower on Monday, as negotiations over Greece’s bailout program continued and the crisis in Ukraine re-escalated. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 (FTSE International: .FTEU3) provisionally ended around 0.6 percent lower, reversing some of the heavy selling seen earlier in the session just before market close. London’s FTSE 100 (FTSE International: .FTSE) outperformed its European counterparts, closing unofficially 0.1 lower.

FTSE 100-listed miners like Randgold Resources (London Stock Exchange: RRS-GB) Fresnillo (London Stock Exchange: FRES-GB), Glencore (London Stock Exchange: GLEN-GB), Rio Tinto (London Stock Exchange: RIO-GB) and Antofagasta (London Stock Exchange: ANTO-GB) were the best performers on the index after Randgold said it would increase its final dividend for 2014 by 20 percent. However, it also posted a 17 percent fall in 2014 profit Monday, hurt by lower gold prices (Exchange:XAU=).

HSBC (London Stock Exchange: HSBA-GB) closed around 1.6 percent lower after the bank admitted to failings at its Swiss subsidiary on Sunday, in response to media reports that it helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets. A re-escalation in the Russia-Ukraine crisis saw German stocks underperformed, as these are seen are viewed as having comparatively higher exposure to Russia. The German DAX (^GDAXI) index closed provisionally 1.6 percent lower.

The Greek government is under pressure to find a solution to its immediate funding situation as its current bailout ends at the end of February. Last week, Greece’s prime minister and finance minister went on a whirlwind tour of Europe to drum up support for a renegotiation of the conditions of its bailout — to mixed success. Greece’s international lenders – the troika comprising the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund — are not ready to release the funds until Greece makes a commitment to continue with the conditions of its bailout, including austerity policies. Greek stocks tumbled 5 percent and bond yields spiked after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his election pledge to end austerity by restructuring Greece’s debt was “irrevocable” in his inaugural speech in parliament late Sunday.Read More ‘Give Greece a chance’: Business leaders Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to meet President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday to discuss a solution to the growing crisis in Ukraine where violence between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukraine military has escalated, forcing many civilians in the east of the country to flee their homes. There have been calls in the U.S. for the country to arm Kiev but European leaders are seeking a diplomatic solution to the conflict. There are plans for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet the leaders of Germany, France and Ukraine in Minsk to progress peace talks on Wednesday. Greece and Russia are likely to be hot topics when finance ministers from the group of 20 nations (G-20) meet in Istanbul Monday to discuss the global economy and concerns over growth.

U.S. stocks traded mostly lower on Monday on continued concern about the situation between Greece and the euro zone. Meanwhile, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said in its monthly report that oil demand growth was “yet to show any signs of accelerating.” However, it still hiked its forecast for 2015, predicting that low prices would help to boost sales later in the year.

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