European markets opened lower on Monday, following a downbeat handover from Asia and the US, as concerns surrounding the future pace of US stimulus continued to weigh on investor sentiment.

Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 fell 0.5% in early trading.

Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.6% in opening trade.

Germany's DAX fell 1% in opening trade.

France's CAC 40 was down 0.4% in opening trade.

Spain's IBEX opened 0.7% lower while Italy's FTSE MIB opened 0.3% lower.

Minutes from the US Federal Reserve's July policy meeting will be released on Wednesday. They could provide hints about the timing of the planned reduction of monetary stimulus. The Fed's $85bn a month bond-buying program has stimulated the US economy and the markets the world over for a while now.

The Fed's FOMC is due to meet on 17 September, 29 October and 17 December. The September and December meetings will be followed by a news conference led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

"The FOMC meeting in September could be the catalyst behind a possible resumption of the long-term uptrend/bull market or the start of a new longer-term downtrend," said Tim Radford, global analyst at Rivkin.

Elsewhere, in Germany, the opposition Social Democratic party (SPD) scrambled on Monday to limit the damage caused by a debate over their tax hike plans.

Germans will elect a new parliament in September. On Sunday, SPD front-runner Peer Steinbrueck called for the introduction of minimum wages in Europe's strongest economy. He also wanted the state to impose higher taxes on wealthy people to invest in debt reduction, infrastructure and education.

In company news, UK-based miners BHP Billiton and Glencore Xstrata will report earnings during the day.

Glencore Xstrata wrote down the value of Xstrata assets by as much as $7.7bn (£4.9bn, €5.7bn) as it reported a 9% drop in core profit in its first half results. The write-down is primarily due to lower commodity prices.

British homebuilder Persimmon, Dublin-based building materials manufacturer and supplier CRH and Swiss chocolate firms Lindt and Spruengli are all expected to release earnings updates during the day.

In Asia and the US

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei finished 2.63% lower on Monday. Australia's S&P/ASX closed 0.67% lower, while South Korea's Kospi ended 1.55% lower.

Earlier in Asia, markets opened lower and followed a downbeat handover from Wall Street.

On Wall Street, indices declined for a fourth consecutive session on 19 August.

The Dow finished 70.73 points lower at 15,010.74, closing near the psychologically-important 15,000 level.

The S&P 500 closed 9.77 points lower at 1,646.06, while the Nasdaq ended 13.69 points lower at 3,589.09.