China posts 2018 GDP; May to reveal Brexit plan B

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index sank around 0.4 percent as traders kicked off Monday’s session, with most sectors and major bourses in the red.

Market players monitored news of slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy. Official data published Monday said China’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 grew 6.6 percent from the previous year, in line with analyst expectations but at its most sluggish rate in almost three decades.

It’s the latest sign of weakness in the Chinese economy, and comes at a critical time in Beijing’s trade battle with the United States. The two countries have been locked in a tense sparring of tariffs since the start of last year, but are currently trying to prevent any further escalation over the course of a 90-day truce.

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump said a trade deal with China “could very well happen,” but denied what he called “false reports” that the U.S. was considering lifting duties on Chinese imports.

Looking at individual stocks, German chemicals firm Henkel slumped to the bottom of the Stoxx 600 after it released preliminary financial results and said it would hike investments by around 300 million euros ($341.6 million). The stock slipped 6 percent.

Shares of online food delivery company Just Eat also fell, after it said Chief Executive Peter Plumb would step down and updated its earnings guidance. The stock fell almost 2 percent.

On the other end, Air France-KLM rose close to the top of the European index after Davy Research upgraded the stock to “outperform” from “neutral.”

Meanwhile, traders await British Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement of a “Plan B” for Brexit which she is due to present in parliament later on Monday.

Last week, U.K. lawmakers rejected May’s EU withdrawal agreement, an event that was largely expected. The prime minister subsequently won a confidence vote that was tabled by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, albeit by a slim margin of 19 votes.

Sterling was barely changed in early morning trade, trading just below the flatline at $1.2871.

In corporate news, Logitech is due to report third-quarter results on Monday.

In terms of data, Germany’s December Producer Price Index (PPI) will be released at 2 a.m. ET.

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