London - European shares crept higher on Monday after weak data from China highlighted the poor health of the world economy, keeping alive talk of action from the world's major central banks.

However, with U.S. investors out for the Labor Day holiday, markets were expected to trade in a limited range.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke left the door open on Friday for further stimulus if needed and investors are waiting for the European Central Bank's meeting on Thursday. The ECB could cut rates and is also due to detail a new bond-buying plan to ease the funding pressures on Spain and Italy.

The euro stood at $1.2579 and below an eight-week peak of $1.2638 set on Friday after Bernanke's speech fanned expectations of steps to revive growth.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.1 percent at 1,082.09, having ended 0.5 percent higher on Friday.

Brent crude edged lower after the latest surveys on Chinese factory activity pointed to a further slowdown in the world's No.2 oil consumer.