A sharp decline for Japan's economy and poor data from China and Germany leave investors cautious in early trade on Monday, with UK stocks starting the week on the back foot. London's FTSE 100 index is trading nearly 0.6% off at 6,698 early on after closing out last week at 6,742.84, its highest finish since 21 November.

Stock broker Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) and retailer Marks & Spencer (MKS) are among the leading blue-chip fallers, off 5% to 939.5p, and 3% to 481.3p respectively.

UK grocery chain Sainsbury (SBRY) inches 0.3% up to 239p after reports that an activist fund is talking with investors about buying up shares in the retailer. The reports speculates that Crystal Amber is looking to build a stake that might eventually lead to a buyout attempt being made for the supermarket giant.

Mining stocks were mostly lower with heavyweights BHP Billiton (BLT), Anglo American (AAL), Rio Tinto (RIO) and Glencore (GLEN) all trading in the red.

Precious metal producer Randgold Resources (RRS), however, makes 77p gains to £42.66 as gold and silver prices advance. Randgold, which heads the Footsie leaderboard in early trading, is also boosted by Deutsche Bank analysts raising their rating on the stock to buy.

Insurer Esure (ESUR) edges 1.5% lower to 211.4p after agreeing to buy the remaining 50% stake of price-comparison group Gocompare.com in a £95 million deal. That will increase Esure's ownership of Newport-based Gocompare to 100% after its initial investment in 2010.

Heavily indebted Russia-based gold miner Petropavlovsk (POG) slumps 38% to 9.88p after announcing a 5p rights issue to raise $235 million. It is also planning a new five-year convertible bond with a target size of $100 million. The monye will help bring net debt to circa $700 million.

Avocet Mining (AVM) tumbles 7% to 4.88p as investors worry that it won't hit annual production targets. Its Inata gold mine in Burkina Faso has been hit by an illegal labour strike. The miner last month reduced its 2014 output guidance to 95,000 ounces of gold following a poor third quarter period. A further downgrade could be on the cards if the strike isn't resolved quickly.

Controversial insurance outsourcing supplier Quindell (QPP:AIM) says it is 'satisfied' with overall trading but has primed accounting giant PwC to conduct a review of its entire business. But the market concentrates on hints that cash conversion has weakened in the last quarter of 2014, dragging the shares 4.5% lower to 53.25p.

Online dating operator Cupid (CUP:AIM) falls 29% to 18p after agreeing to sell its last remaining operating business, its dating business, for £3 million and warning it will get £7.5 million less than expected from the previous sale of its casual business. The group, which has been hit by allegations of luring members by creating fake profiles, will become a cash shell following the disposal with reserves of £13 million of which around £8 million will be returned to shareholders via a tender offer or share buyback.

Middle East focused oil company Gulfsands Petroleum (GPX:AIM) gains 11.3% to 28p as Waterford Finance and Investment, the investor seeking to remove chief executive Mahdi Sajjad and commercial director Ken Judge, has increased its stake in the company to 28.08%. Waterford is one of two of Gulfsands' major shareholders looking for a boardroom shake up. Separately Abdul Rahman Kayed, owning 9.75%, has proposed to remove chairman Andrew West, as well as non-executive directors John Bell and James Ede Golightly as director – Gulfsands plans to hold an extraordinary general meeting to settle the issue in January.

Indian based unconventional oil and gas play Oilex (OEX:AIM) is up 19.1% to 3.87p as it hails its proof of concept well on the Cambay field as a success. The programme recorded an initial production rate just above two million cubic feet per day, with 55% ‘hydrocarbon liquids’. Managing director Ron Miller says: 'With all the proof-of-concept objectives having been achieved, a significant milestone has been reached towards creating a profitable and sustainable business.'

Energy saving solutions business APC Technology (APC:AIM) sees 2% shaved off its market value after completing a new £2.075 million share placing to bolster working capital. The share price weakens only modestly,down 0.5p to 23.75p, despite the 17.5% discount to Friday's 24.25p share price needed to get the funding away.

Commercial energy management business Utilitywise (UTW:AIM) sheds 0.7% 283p as fund manager River & Mercantile (RIV) (R&M) trims its stake to below 10%. The stock remains the largest holding in R&M’s Smaller Companies fund, managed by Philip Aldrigs.

Chinese green electric powered scooter maker Vmoto (VMT:AIM) speeds ahead 6.1% to 1.83p on a bullish year-end trading statement. Drawing confidence from October's best monthly profit to date, the company, which reported maiden half-year profits in August, says profits for calendar 2014 will come in at the higher end of the previously guided A$2.5 million-A$3 million range.

Bucking the trend in a falling market, small cap insurance broker and financial planner Jelf (JLF:AIM) rises 1.2% to 125p. It posts a full-year profit before tax of £7.4 million, up 80% on the prior year as the benefit of acquisitions feed through.

Issue Date: 08 Dec 2014