Sam Meredith, Ryan Browne
Banks sat among the best performers Monday, with Italian lenders getting a boost after reports that their capital positions were higher than the levels required by the European Central Bank. Banco BPM rose almost 7 percent — to the stop of the Stoxx 600 — while UBI Banca climbed nearly 3 percent higher.
Looking at individual stocks, Deutsche Post rose after a report suggested Germany could grant the postal services firm with a higher-than-anticipated increase in postage for letters from the summer. Shares of the postal service advanced almost 3 percent.
Meanwhile, Britain's Smith & Nephew slumped close to the bottom of the European benchmark after the Financial Times reported the London-listed company was in talks to buy NuVasive. Shares of the medical devices manufacturer fell nearly 3 percent.
On the data front, official figures published Monday showed Britain's economy grew at its slowest pace since 2012 last year. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the final three months of 2018 slipped to a quarterly rate of 0.2 percent from 0.6 percent in the previous quarter.
The quarterly GDP figures follows a flurry of economic data in recent weeks that suggest businesses and consumers are increasingly nervous about Britain's departure from the European Union next month. Sterling was trading 0.66 percent lower at $1.2862 on the news.
Market focus is largely attuned to global trade developments, with a delegation of U.S. officials set to travel to China for the next round of negotiations this week.
The latest set of trade talks will take place in Beijing from Monday. It comes after discussions in Washington last week concluded without a deal.
Both sides are trying to secure a comprehensive trade agreement ahead of an early March deadline when U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent. President Donald Trump said last week that he would not meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping before said deadline.
Escalating tensions between the world's two largest economies have cost both countries billions of dollars and roiled global financial markets.