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European stocks tread water as Wall Street takes day off

European stocks.jpg
Europe's main stock markets fell at the start of trading Monday, extending pre-weekend losses, with major takeover activity within the oil sector failing to lift sentiment.

[PARIS] Eurozone stock markets were among the few major exchanges operating Monday, showing a rangebound picture in thin business as traders in London and New York took the day off.

It was "a slow start to the week", noted LCG Senior Market Analyst Jasper Lawler. But he added that markets still appeared solid, retaining, or even extending, most of the gains won over the past weeks.

"The old adage of 'sell in May and go away' hasn't worked out too well," Mr Lawler said. Losses linked to political upheaval at the White House had already been recouped.

"Dip-buyers won out again," he said.

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Frankfurt's Dax index ended the day a touch higher, while Paris was slightly easier at the closing bell.

'Doze off'

"The economics agenda is empty today and corporate news is frankly not intense either," said analysts at Paris brokerage Aurel BGC.

"Enough reason for European markets to doze off."

Asian stocks earlier mostly slipped, with few solid trading cues after investors largely shrugged off an early-morning North Korean missile launch.

The short-range projectile flew for several minutes before landing in waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan - the latest in a series of launches that have raised tensions over the North's bid to develop weapons capable of hitting the United States.

The political reaction in Asia was swift as Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the launch and vowed "concrete action" with the US.

South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-In, ordered a meeting of the national security council to assess the launch.

Japan and South Korea are the nations most immediately threatened by Pyongyang's provocations.

Most Asia-Pacific stock markets took the launch in their stride, with Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index mostly higher before ending the day flat.

"The impact on the Tokyo market is limited," Okasan Online Securities' chief strategist Yoshihiro Ito said in a commentary.

South Korea's Kospi index slipped 0.10 per cent and Sydney fell 0.78 per cent, while Hong Kong tacked on 0.24 per cent.

Financial markets in mainland China and Taiwan were closed Monday for a public holiday.

Wall Street was shut for Memorial Day and London for the Spring Bank Holiday.

The major US indices finished Friday's session essentially flat ahead of a three-day holiday weekend in the United States.

But US stocks nevertheless held onto gains won after a six-day rally - meaning the hair's-breadth rise was all that was necessary to see the Nasdaq and S&P 500 break Thursday's all-time highs.

Fresh economic data Friday showed the US economy was stronger in the first quarter than first reported.