By Ishaq Siddiqi And Rosalind Mathieson
European stock markets ended modestly higher as European leaders continued to grope toward an aid package for Greece.
Earnings disappointments weighed down some Australian stocks on Monday, while India's Bharti Airtel fell after news it was in talks to buy most African assets of Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications.
Dubai stocks eased and the price of insuring against a default in the city-state rose to its highest level since March 2009 on news that flagship corporation Dubai World may offer creditors just 60% of the money they are owed, as part of a deal to reschedule $22 billion in debt.
With much of Asia closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, U.S. markets closed for Presidents Day and euro-zone finance ministers meeting ahead of Tuesday's Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting, market action was muted.
European Union finance ministers on Tuesday will discuss additional measures Greece should take to tackle its fiscal crisis beyond what it already has promised to do in order to comply with EU budget rules. Euro-zone finance ministers will discuss whether a goal set by the EU for Greece to cut its budget deficit by four percentage points in 2010 is attainable, Luxembourg Prime Minister and Finance Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said Monday. If it isn't, extra steps may be needed, said Mr. Juncker, who also is chair of the Eurogroup of euro-zone finance ministers.
Although analysts don't expect any breakthrough when the European meeting ends Tuesday, the Greek debt issue remains a driving force of sentiment and kept the euro under pressure.
Greek officials have upped the ante by suggesting they won't consider any further austerity measures until the middle of March, after the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund are scheduled to carry out an audit of its debt-cutting program.
The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index added 0.4% to 241.92.
In LONDON , the FTSE 100 index rose 0.5% to 5167.47. British Airways jumped 2.6%. Over the weekend, AMR's American Airlines said U.S. regulators tentatively had approved a proposed trans-Atlantic travel alliance with British Airways and other partners.
British engineering-services firm VT Group closed 15% higher. The rise came after engineering-services provider Babcock International Group /zigman2/quotes/200965934/delayed UK:BAB -0.64% said it had made an "indicative proposal" to acquire VT Group. Babcock, which declined 8.8%, said the VT board had rejected the proposal and declined to enter into discussions with Babcock.
In PARIS , the CAC-40 index was up 0.3% at 3609.22. French industrial gases group Air Liquide rose 1.3% after reporting its 2009 net income rose 0.8% due to efficiency gains.
Renault /zigman2/quotes/200919924/delayed FR:RNO -3.72% gained 2.4% after the French auto maker was upgraded to overweight from underweight by Morgan Stanley. The broker said the three cash-flow issues that kept it underweight have begun to recede.
In FRANKFURT , the DAX edged up 0.2% to 5511.10. Tourism firm Tui /zigman2/quotes/206714402/delayed DE:TUI1 -4.03% climbed 9.3% after reporting that its fiscal first-quarter net loss narrowed.
The Greek market was closed.
In OSLO , shares of Norwegian fertilizer group Yara International /zigman2/quotes/200075065/delayed NO:YAR +0.20% dropped 6.9%. It said it will pay $4.1 billion for Terra Industries. Yara said the deal will improve its position in the U.S.
In Asia, Japanese shares declined in spite of stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter economic growth as worries about deflation, combined with the fall on Wall Street late last week and monetary tightening in China, hurt sentiment. Overall activity was low, with many Asian markets—including Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea—closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.