By Susan Mathew and Bansari Mayur Kamdar
March 24 (Reuters) – European stocks fell on Thursday as the war in Ukraine entered its second month and Western countries stepped up aid to kyiv and widened sanctions on Russia at a special NATO summit.
* Western leaders meeting in Brussels agreed to bolster their forces in eastern Europe, increase military aid to Ukraine and support sanctions on Russia.
* “The tone of the various meetings was uncompromising,” said Michael Hewson, chief markets analyst at CMC Markets UK.
* The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.2% at the close, after searching for direction all day.
* Banks lost 0.7%, while minority shares were pressured by a 3.3% drop in British clothing minority Next after it cut its sales and profit forecast for 2022-23.
* The nervousness was evident and investors opted for sectors such as consumer staples companies, which are less affected by economic downturns.
* After two months of declines due to concerns over inflation, monetary policy and the Ukraine war, the STOXX 600’s meager gains so far in March are in jeopardy heading into the final week of the month.
* Among individual stocks, defense companies BAE Systems and Thales SA gained and 1.9% and 1.7%, respectively, while Rheinmetall jumped and 8.9%.
(Edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)