RTTNews - The major European markets may open modestly lower on Monday on the back of mixed Asian cues ahead of the release of key Japanese and U.S. economic reports later this week, which include the Bank of Japan's Tankan survey of business sentiment, and the monthly U.S. non-farm payrolls report. Investors would also look forward to the Eurozone economic sentiment survey and the U.K. mortgage approvals for clues to the recovery of the domestic economy.

The average asking price of a house in the United Kingdom was essentially unchanged month-over-month in June, property data collection company Hometrack said on Monday, following another flat monthly reading in May. On an annual basis, house prices fell 8.7 percent after the 9.6 percent fall in May. In all, house prices have fallen three straight months. Separately, Finland's manufacturing confidence stood at minus 33 in June, unchanged from May, the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK said Monday

Crude oil futures closed below the $70 a barrel mark on Friday after a report showed savings in the US jumped to a 15-year high in May, signaling a slow recovery in household spending. In Asian trading on Monday, crude oil slipped further to $68.74 a barrel on concerns regarding weak oil demand in the U.S.

On Friday, the European markets fell for the second day after Sanofi-Aventis slipped following broker downgrades on concern of health risk associated with its Lantus diabetes treatment and UBS tumbled after forecasting a second quarter loss. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European blue chips closed 0.13% lower, while the narrower DJ Stoxx 50 index fell 0.30%. Around Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index fell 0.27%,France's CAC 40 index dropped 1.05% and Germany's DAX index slipped 0.50%.

In corporate news, Mobile network operator Vodafone Group plc is exploring a bid to buy T-Mobile UK, even though a deal runs the risk of being blocked by regulators as the acquisition might create a combined entity controlling at least 40% of the U.K. market, the Financial Times reports citing people familiar with the situation.

Dublin-based low-budget carrier Ryanair Holdings plc (RYAAY) is all set to order 300 more aircraft from Airbus or Boeing Co. (BA) by the end of this year, reports revealed on Saturday. Italy's biggest cement maker, Italcementi SpA, and Ciments Francais SA said they have abandoned plans to fully merge because of excessive demands by U.S. investors, the Bloomberg reported on Saturday.

Anglo American plc which last week rebuffed a proposal from Xstrata plc to consider a merger of equals, is to open talks with the Aluminum Corporation of China or Chinalco, and at least one unidentified Middle Eastern investor about a partnership that could see it inject hundreds of millions of dollars into MMX, Anglo's Brazilian iron ore business, according to media reports.

Brussels-based insurance group Fortis Holding is to take a charge of ?362.5m ($504m) in its first-half results after losing a case in the Netherlands against one of its former subsidiaries, reports the Financial Times. The European Union Commission has delayed a decision on approving Lufthansa's takeover of Austrian Airlines AG, reports suggest.

According to the latest Financial Services Survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry and PricewaterhouseCoopers, financial service sector firms in the U.K. expect business volumes to improve over the coming quarter, after seeing 21 months of falls. The survey also found that optimism about the overall business situation has risen for the first time in two years.

Spanish toll-road and parking operator Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras SA sold its parking-lot division for EUR451 million to a consortium of four investors. The Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin offered Royal Dutch Shell a role in the Sakhalin-3 and Sakhalin-4 natural gas projects on Saturday.

OctoPlus N.V. said it appointed Susan Swarte as chief financial officer, effective August 1.2009 Serco Group plc in its update on first half performance said it remains on track to deliver on its guidance for 2009. Swiss drug maker Novartis AG (NVS) is in talks to buy certain operations from Ireland-based biotechnology company Elan Corp. plc, the Sunday Times reported.

Energy stocks may come under selling pressure after crude oil slipped below $69 a barrel in Asian trading on Monday. Banking stocks could be in focus after U.K. Business Minister Peter Mandelson said Britain plans to keep financial regulation in the hands of a beefed-up Financial Services Authority rather than transfer powers to the Bank of England.

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