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Global Stocks See-Saw, Yields Slip as Investors Get Week Off to Cautious Start

Stocks seesawed on Monday while oil, the dollar and bond yields all fell as investors began the week cautious about prospects that U.S. interest rates could soon be raised.

The FTSEuroFirst 300 index of leading shares, Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 all fell as much as 1 percent in early trade but then rebounded into positive territory.

Traders work at their desks in front of the German share price index, DAX board, at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
Traders work at their desks in front of the German share price index, DAX board, at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, May 19, 2016. REUTERS/Staff/Remote

Shares in German drugs and chemicals group Bayer AG were among the most notable decliners, however, down as much as 3 percent after it unveiled a $62 billion bid for U.S. seeds company Monsanto Co .

U.S. futures pointed to a fall of around 0.3 percent at the open on Wall Street, as investors continued to digest last week's surge in U.S. rate hike expectations.

"The Fed's decision to convey a much firmer hawkish tone has certainly woken people up to the possibility that rates could rise over the summer and with that, the markets have perked up as well," said Craig Erlam, senior analyst at Oanda.

Purchasing managers index data showed that euro zone business growth slipped in May to a 16-month low, the latest evidence to suggest a strong acceleration in growth in the first three months of the year was only temporary.

Markit's flash Composite Purchasing Managers' Index, one of the first growth indicators in a month, edged down to 52.9 from April's 53.0, essentially stable but still the lowest since the start of 2015.

Germany's private sector growth accelerated in May to the highest level so far this year, but activity elsewhere failed to keep pace.

Earlier in Asia shares mostly rose, with MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan up 0.3 percent, but Japan's Nikkei ended down 0.5 percent.

The Markit/Nikkei flash Japan manufacturing PMI showed Japanese manufacturing activity contracted at the fastest pace in more than three years in May, while a slump in Japanese trade and reports that Japan's sales tax increase would indeed be implemented all weighed on the Nikkei.

"In a climate dominated by speculation over monetary policy, PMIs give a solid insight into the state of the 'real' economy and how domestic industries are coping with policy measures, and are not to be ignored," said Ana Thaker, Market Economist at PhillipCapital UK.

Markets have started to entertain the prospect of a near term U.S. rate hike after last week's release of Fed meeting minutes showed that policymakers weren't shying away from raising interest rates as early as next month.

The probability for a June rate hike rose from around 4 percent at the start of the week to 30 percent on Friday, according to CME Group's FedWatch site. Futures markets are predicting two rate increases this year as opposed to just one as recently as last week.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will appear at a panel event hosted by Harvard University on Friday. Fed branch presidents including those from San Francisco, St. Louis, Dallas, Minneapolis are also slated to speak earlier in the week.

But given the speed of these expectation shifts, investors took the opportunity for a pause on Monday, pushing bond yields lower across the board.