European stocks, euro slip; U.S. markets closed for holiday


European stocks and the euro currency lost ground Monday as the region’s governments disagreed over how to tackle the continent’s debt crisis.

U.S. financial markets were closed for Martin Luther King Day.

Finance ministers began meeting Monday in Brussels to discuss increasing the lending capacity of a multinational rescue fund. But Germany was said to be opposed to bolstering the European Union fund.

“It would be good for the euro zone as a whole if they can calm some of the nerves,” Heinz-Gerd Sonnenschein, equity market strategist at Deutsche Postbank in Bonn, said of the finance ministers. “But by what actions? We will have to live with discussions about the debt problems for months and quarters to come.”


The euro lost 0.5% against the dollar, falling to $1.329 late Monday from $1.336 on Friday.

An index of shares of 50 big European companies fell 0.3%, with bank stocks leading the way down.

Strength in the pharmaceutical sector helped offset declines in other areas. British medical device maker Smith & Nephew jumped 3.5% on reports of a takeover approach by Johnson & Johnson.

Key indexes fell 0.3% in Britain and 0.2% in France but edged up in Germany.

In Asia, Japanese shares inched up, while Hong Kong shares lost 0.5%.

Shares slumped 3% in Shanghai as China’s latest move to curb the flood of money into its economy continued to weigh on investors.

With U.S. markets closed, shares of Apple sank 7.9% in Frankfurt on news that Chief Executive Steve Jobs was taking another medical leave.