LONDON (TheDeal) -- European markets followed the Asian markets down Monday, as investors worried that the strength of the U.S. economy might drive the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates earlier than previously expected. U.S. non-farm payrolls rose an unexpected 295,000 last month and the jobless rate, at 5.5% was the lowest since 2008. That's pushed up the value of the dollar and hurt emerging market currencies -- as well as likely making conditions tougher for developed nation exports.
The European Central Bank started its €60 billion ($65.3 billion) a month quantitative easing program this morning, reportedly buying German government bonds.
London's FTSE 100 was down 0.63% at 6,668.56, while in Paris, the CAC 40 was down 0.72% at 4,928.64. In Frankfurt, the DAX was off 10.42% at 11,502.89.
A big faller in Paris this morning was French concrete and construction materials group Lafarge (LFRGY), after a Swiss Sunday newspaper report suggested its planned $39 billion merger with Swiss peer Holcim (HCMLY) might require revision. The SonntagsZeitung claimed that one of Holcim's largest investors, 20%-shareholder Thomas Schmidheiny, thinks Holcim's improved performance in recent months and the surge in the Swiss franc means the 1:1 share exchange negotiated last April now looks less attractive. Lafarge was down 1.38% mid-morning, while in Zurich, Holcim was up 1.34%.
Also in Paris, defense and engineering group Thales (THLEY) was up 1.9% at €52.64 on the announcement of a contract to provide the security systems for a vast new container port for the Gulf state of Qatar.
However, in London, a £250 million ($378 million) contract to improve flood defenses in the Thames Estuary and protect London from rising sea-levels failed to lift Balfour Beatty (BAFBF), which fell 1.4% to 240 pence. Balfour Beatty has issued six profit warnings in that past two years.
Meanwhile, Lloyds Banking (LYG) was down 0.75% at 80.82 pence, after the U.K. Government sold another 1% of its stock, reducing its holding to 22.9%.
The world's largest advertising group by sales, WPP (WPPGY), was up 1.17% after announcing a 12% gain in pre-tax profits for 2014 to £1.5 billion ($2.27 billion), on revenues of £11.5 billion. It said it hoped to grow net sales by more than 3% in 2015.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 closed down 0.95% at 18,790.55, while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng was off 0.17% at 24,123.05. The Shanghai Composite finished the day up 1.89% at 3,302.41.