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Market focus on Italy's change of government

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Photo - Cuirassiers presidential guards salute as Italian Democratic Party's leader Matteo Renzi arrives to meet journalists at the Quirinale presidential palace after talks with Italan President Giorgio Napolitano, in Rome, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. Renzi was asked to form a new government to replace the one he sacked through a stunning power-grab within his own party. Renzi drove himself to his meeting with Napolitano, mimicking the down-to-earth approach of his predecessor, Enrico Letta.(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Cuirassiers presidential guards salute as Italian Democratic Party's leader Matteo Renzi arrives to meet journalists at the Quirinale presidential palace after talks with Italan President Giorgio Napolitano, in Rome, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. Renzi was asked to form a new government to replace the one he sacked through a stunning power-grab within his own party. Renzi drove himself to his meeting with Napolitano, mimicking the down-to-earth approach of his predecessor, Enrico Letta.(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
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LONDON (AP) — Global markets were steady on Monday as investors sought clarity over Italy's political and economic future and took to the sidelines as Wall Street remained shut for a holiday.

Now that Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano has asked Matteo Renzi to form a new government, investors want to see how quickly he tackles reforms needed to get the economy going.

Renzi, who is the mayor of Florence and poised to be the country's youngest premier at 39 years of age, engineered last week's ouster of Enrico Letta, who had only been Italy's leader for 10 months. Renzi argued a change of government was needed to get on with reforms.

Italy only recently emerged from recession, figures showed last week, but growth remains paltry. Its debt burden is also the second-highest in the 18-country eurozone, behind Greece.

"While political turmoil is nothing new in Italy, the return to growth last week was, but it was meagre at best, and Renzi may not have much of a honeymoon period if all we get is more of the same," said Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC Markets.

By the close, Italy's FTSE MIB index was up 0.1 percent at 20,459.65, while Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 9,65.76. The CAC-40 in France ended 0.1 percent lower at 4,335.17.

The FTSE 100 in Britain outperformed its counterparts, closing 1.1 percent higher at 6,736.00, gaining momentum as it broke through the 6,700 level for the first time in over 3 weeks.

"It is not often that Europe struggles to keep pace with the bullish moves of U.K. traders, but today looks to be that exception to the rule," said Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG.

One reason why trading has proved lackluster in Europe is the fact that U.S. markets are closed for Presidents Day.

There was an equally subdued feel in currency markets, where the euro was flat at $1.3707 and the dollar fell 0.2 percent to 101.30 yen.

Earlier, in Asia, the mood was a little bit more upbeat, after figures showed that lending by Chinese banks and in the largely unregulated underground market rebounded to 2.6 trillion yuan ($430 billion) in January from December's 1.2 billion yuan. Lending usually surges at the start of a new year but January's rise exceeded forecasts and might help to ease worries about cooling retail sales, manufacturing and other activity.

Among the gainers was the Shanghai Composite Index, which added 0.9 percent to 2,135.41. Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.6 percent to 14,393.11 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1 percent to 22,520.74.

Tokyo's rise came despite Japan's latest quarterly economic growth disappointing forecasters, holding steady at 0.3 percent. Growth in private consumption accelerated to 0.5 percent from the previous quarter's 0.2 percent but fell short of forecasts.

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