European stocks and the euro eased on Monday as markets awaited fresh developments in the debt crisis, and reacted to the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il which raised geopolitical concerns.
In early deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index dropped 0.19 percent to 5,377.32 points, the Paris CAC 40 index slid 0.24 percent to 2,967.18 points and Frankfurt's DAX 30 was flat at 5,704.95 points after starting lower.
"Equities have kicked off in the red as macro economic factors continue to weigh on the market," said ETX Capital trader Manoj Ladwa.
"With credit rating downgrades, on-going sovereign debt issues and uncertainty in the Korean peninsula, it is difficult to see where the upside will come from in what is a traditionally strong week."
Equities tend to enjoy a bounce in the week before Christmas but not this year as the eurozone crisis and fears of fresh recession rumble on.
In foreign exchange deals, the euro dipped to $1.3016 from $1.3032 on Friday.
"The main downside risk to global growth ahead remains the still escalating eurozone sovereign debt crisis," said Lee Hardman, a currency economist at The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.
"The yen and US dollar are continuing to benefit from investors' increasing aversion to risk given heightened uncertain over the outlook for global growth."
European finance ministers were to hold a teleconference on Monday that will aim to fill in details of this month's debt-fighting agreement.
The talks, which will include non-euro members, will also discuss boosting International Monetary Fund (IMF) coffers to enable it to come to the aid of floundering economies.
At a recent summit, which saw non-eurozone member Britain block plans for an EU treaty change to save the single currency, member countries announced plans to pump 200 billion euros ($260 billion) into an IMF warchest.
Last Friday meanwhile, Moody's Investors Service cut Belgium's credit rating by two notches, citing tough conditions for in-debt European countries to borrow with little chance of a quick end to the eurozone crisis.
The agency reduced Brussels' rating to Aa3, with a negative outlook, from Aa1.
Also late last week, Fitch Ratings lowered its outlook on France's triple-A rating to negative from stable, saying the debt crisis "constitutes a significant negative shock to the region and to France's economy and the stability of its financial sector."
The agency also placed six eurozone nations, including Spain and Italy, on watch for downgrade, saying it considered a "comprehensive solution" to the crisis was technically and politically beyond reach.
Asian shares also fell on Monday over eurozone strains but the region's main focus was the death of Kim.
Seoul's main equity index closed down 3.43 percent, Tokyo shed 1.26 percent, Hong Kong lost 1.18 percent, Shanghai fell 0.30 percent and Sydney tumbled 2.38 percent.
North Korean state television said the 69-year-old Kim died on Saturday and that the isolated communist nation must now follow his son Kim Jong-Un.
"The Christmas break may now be very much in sight for traders, but equity markets seem unlikely to find themselves awash with festive cheer in the coming days," said IG Markets trader Terry Pratt.
"There's the very real prospect of some significant credit ratings downgrades in Europe to contend with, whilst that breaking news of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is going to bring the geopolitical situation in North East Asia very much back onto the agenda too."