European stocks were biased toward the downside Monday with stocks in continental Europe all posting losses while London's blue chip benchmark rose by a fraction thanks only to gains at a handful of index heavyweights.

The meek performance came as recent geopolitical tensions remained at the top of the agenda for investors, who had little by way of major economic or earnings news to focus on Monday.

The FTSE 100 was up by a fraction, or 0.03%, to 7,351 an hour into the session, while the mid-market FTSE 250 index posted a gain of 0.09% to be quoted at 19,246.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index was down 0.49% at 5,110 while, in Frankfurt, the DAX was down 0.06% to 12,218.

In Southern Europe the FTSE MIB was down nearly 0.5% in Milan while the IBEX in Madrid was around 0.30% in the red.

U.S. markets were pointing towards a positive opening. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were trading 0.06% higher at 20,667 while S&P 500 futures were around 0.05% higher at 2,356.

BHP Billiton(BHP) - Get Report shares surged nearly 5% higher Monday to top the FTSE 100, after activist investor Elliott Management urged the company to consider a spin off its petroleum assets, comprised predominantly of shale assets. 

Elliott said the miner should dump its U.S. oil assets, which it puts a price tag of $22 billion on, and should lose its London listing.

The activist asset manager was spurred to action by long term underperformance of BHP shares relative to other comparable companies and now wants to see a more streamlined company.

Rio Tinto(RIO) - Get Report was also a top gainer, with the shares up by nearly 2% after the bell, in response to the group having released details of its annual tax bill.

It has been under pressure by Australian authorities in recent times over allegations that it uses transfer pricing, known locally as the 'Singapore tax sling', to reduce its tax bill in Australia.

Meanwhile, some of Friday's winners began to pare gains in London, with top gainers Randgold(GOLD) - Get Report and Fresnillo (FNLPF) , both ceding ground after the opening bell, to post losses of 1.9% and 1.6% respectively.

Barclays (BCS) - Get Report  stock was volatile after the lender told investors that its CEO Jes Staley is under investigation over his handling of a whistleblowing complaint. Shares pared earlier losses and were up 0.14% to change hands at 215.6 pence, stock lost 1% at opening on Monday. 

In Paris, oil and gas services firm, Technip (TKPPY) , was the top faller on the CAC 40 as the exploration and production sector dropped, despite modest gains for oil prices.

Banking sector heavyweights Societe Generale (SCGLY) and BNP Paribas (BNPQY) were also among the top fallers among French blue chips Monday.

In Frankfurt, Deutsche Lufthansa (DLAKY) , Thyssenkrupp (TYEKF) and Deutsche Boerse (DBOEY) all featured at the top of the DAX, with gains ranging between 0.5% and 1.9%.

However, these were offset by losses at Henkel (HENOY) , Adidas (ADDYY) and Continental (CTTAY) , which conspired to push the DAX lower by a fraction in the opening hours of trading.