London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index eased 15.30 points, or 0.34%, to 4,445.50. Tony Blair's labor government faces a critical vote on college tuition "top up" fees on Tuesday, as well as a possible censure from Lord Hutton's report on Iraq leaks on Wednesday. "Blair could fall but markets feel Chancellor Gordon Brown would take over, and maintain the U.K.'s current economic policies," says S&P's MarketScope. Legal & General Group was lower as its fourth quarter earnings lagged forecasts. BAE Systems was also lower as a Credit Suisse First Boston analyst downgrades the European aerospace, defense industry.
In Paris, the CAC 40 lost 17.64 points, or 0.48%, to 3,675.72, despite French business optimism hitting a three-year high. Loreal and Carrefour were weak in France, as Europe's biggest retailer was downgraded to 'hold' from 'buy' at Deutsche Bank.
Germany's DAX index slipped 23.15 points, or 0.56%, to 4,128.68, in spite of a report that shows German business confidence optimism is higher. German unions are threatening to strike this week. Weak stocks in Germany include DaimlerChrysler, which may face a strike this week. ThyssenKrupp, Allianz & Munich were also down.
Asian stocks finished lower on Monday as traders assessed the impact of the 'bird flu' virus that has claimed seven lives in Asia. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index finished below 11,000, down 96.41 points or 0.87%, to close at 10,972.60. An accounting probe of Japan's fourth-largest lender, UFJ Holdings, weighed on markets there.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dipped 23.31 points, or 0.17% to finish at 13,727.27.
Canada's benchmark S&P/TSX fell 9.81 points, or 0.11%, to 8,594.92.