During European midday trade, France’s CAC 40 fell 0.22%, while markets in Germany were to remain closed for Christmas Eve.
Market sentiment remained under pressure as investors continued to monitor developments surrounding the fiscal cliff in the U.S., approximately USD600 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts due to come into effect on January 1.
The U.S. House has adjourned for the Christmas holiday, fueling speculation that policymakers will not be able to avert the fiscal cliff. Without a deal, the U.S. could fall back into recession and drag much of the world down with it.
Adding to concerns, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti tendered his resignation after only 13 months in office, paving the way for a highly uncertain national election in February.
Financial stocks turned broadly lower, as French lenders BNP Paribas and Societe Generale saw shares drop 0.47% and 0.68%, while Spain's Banco Santander and BBVA declined 0.49% and 0.28% respectively.
Elsewhere, Finnish cellphone company Nokia retreated 0.33% after signing an agreement worth USD321 million with Chinese e-commerce giant 360buy as part of a strategic partnership, in which the former will sell its smartphones directly on the latter's online platform.
In London, commodity-heavy FTSE 100 added 0.18%, supported by gains in mining stocks.
Shares in Vedanta Resources surged 2.08% and Evraz added 0.25%, while mining giants Rio Tinto BHP Billiton advanced 0.82% and 0.22%.
Copper producers were also on the upside, with Xstrata and Kazakhmys rallying 1.31% and 1.35%.
In addition, Weir Group jumped 0.80% following reports last week that the engineering company has broadened its operations in the North American shale gas market by agreeing the takeover of Mathena, a US provider of equipment and services for oil and gas drillers.
Meanwhile, financial stocks turned mostly higher. Barclays inched up 0.03% and the Royal Bank of Scotland rose 0.38%, while HSBC Holdings climbed 0.99%. Lloyds Banking underperformed on the other hand, with shares declining 0.31%.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a lower open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.20% drop, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.27% decline, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.24% loss. U.S. equity markets will close early at 13:30EST (18:30 GMT).
Trading volumes were expected to remain light because many traders have closed books to lock in profit before the end of the year, reducing liquidity in the market and increasing the volatility.