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European stocks slide on eve of US election

A trader at the Frankfurt stock exchange. European equities lost ground Monday as cautious trading prevailed on the eve of the US presidential election, while Spanish sentiment was also hurt by dire unemployment data, dealers said.

European equities slid Monday as cautious trading prevailed on the eve of the US presidential election, while sentiment was also hurt by dire Spanish unemployment data, dealers said.

London's FTSE 100 index of top companies slipped 0.50 percent to 5,839.06 points, while in Frankfurt the DAX 30 skidded down 0.51 percent to 7,326.47 points, and Paris' CAC 40 dropped 1.26 percent to 3,448.5 points.

In Madrid, the IBEX 35 index dived 1.89 percent to 7,818.6 points after official data showed that the number of job seekers in recession-struck Spain soared in October to the highest level for at least 16 years.

Eyes are on the world's two biggest economies this week, as US President Barack Obama battles for re-election on Tuesday in a tight race against Republican challenger Mitt Romney and Beijing is expected to anoint a successor to President Hu Jintao.

"Europe's markets have been firmly on the back foot today, with a number of reasons being cited, but all stemming from increasing uncertainty against a backdrop of concerns about Greece getting its budget through parliament later this week, another sharp increase in Spanish unemployment, while the outcome of tomorrow's US presidential poll promises to be as close as everyone expected it would be," said CMC Markets UK Senior Market Analyst Michael Hewson.

Analyst Chris Beauchamp at trading group IG said investors should also keep an eye on China.

"Of greater concern should be the Chinese leadership handover, as it seems the more conservative elements are poised to regain control, which could exacerbate tensions in East Asia. As a result, investors remain firmly risk averse," he added.

US stocks wobbled. In midday trading the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 0.05 percent to 13,086.98 points.

The broad-based S&P 500 was off 0.08 percent to 1,413.06 points, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.30 percent to 2,991.02 points.

Charles Schwab & Co. analysts said "...tomorrow's US presidential election draining conviction on the Street, along with festering Greek bailout uncertainty."

Eurozone finance ministers are unlikely to take a formal decision on a crucial bailout loan for Greece next week, a European official said Monday, despite Athens expected to run out of funds later this month.

The Greek parliament will hold crucial votes this week on a new round of austerity demanded by international lenders, while the country is gripped by a new wave of strikes.

In foreign exchange deals on Monday, the euro sank to $1.2767 -- hitting the lowest level since September 11 -- as investors sought the safety of the dollar amid uncertainty over the US election.

The shared eurozone unit later stood at $1.2790, down from $1.2835 late in New York on Friday.

"With the US elections tomorrow, I expect to see further downside pressure on the pair as traders favour the safe-haven dollar," cautioned Alpari analyst Craig Erlam.

"The race for the White House has been extremely close for months now and with just one day to go until people in the US go to the polls, traders are likely to remain risk averse."

Gold prices fell to $1.672.75 an ounce on the London Bullion Market, touching a low last seen on August 31, before pulling back to $1,683.50. That compared with $1,685 on Friday.

A stronger greenback makes dollar-priced commodities like gold more expensive for buyers using weaker currencies, denting demand.

In company news on Monday, HSBC saw its share price drop 1.29 percent to 618 pence in London, after the British banking giant reported plunging net profits.

HSBC announced that third-quarter earnings slumped after it took $1.15 billion (898 million euros) in extra charges for a money-laundering scandal in the US and insurance mis-selling claims in Britain.

Profits after tax tumbled by more than half to $2.498 billion in the third quarter or three months to September, compared with $5.222 billion a year earlier, HSBC said in a results statement.

Asian markets closed mostly down on Monday ahead of the US vote and the start of China's leadership transition.

Hong Kong fell 0.47, Tokyo dropped 0.48 percent, Seoul lost 0.55 percent and Shanghai shed 0.14 percent. Sydney finished 0.31-percent higher.