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European stocks close slightly lower after terrorists strike Brussels

Europe’s main stock benchmark ended lower Tuesday, albeit well off session lows, after explosions rocked the Brussels Airport and a local subway station left dozens dead and injured.

The Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 0.2% to end at 340.30, as gains for technology, health care and industrial shares helped curb the decline. But the consumer-services sector was under pressure as travel-related stocks fell.

Belgium’s Bel-20 index closed up 0.2% at 3,424.92, bouncing back after briefly dropping by 1.4% as trading opened. There, shares of property company Cofinimmo  lost 0.6% and financial services firm ING Groep NV also fell 0.6%.

“Markets recovered some of the losses as the afternoon came around,” said Jasper Lawler, analyst at CMC Markets, in a note. “The sad reality is that the more frequent these kinds of events become, the more markets become immune and the response in prices becomes less dramatic.”

Islamic State claimed responsibility for three explosions that rocked Brussels on Tuesday morning, hitting the international airport and the city’s metro system. At least 34 people were killed and 136 were wounded, according to news reports.

Among travel shares, Air France-KLM SA fell 4% and French hotel group Accor SA lost 3.9%. British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group shed 1.5% and low-cost airline Ryanair Holdings PLC dropped 2.2%. Deutsche Lufthansa AG declined 1.3%.

“Following the attacks in Paris last November, concerns about similar future events in Europe may have a more prolonged impact on the tourism and travel sectors, as well as a deterioration in consumer sentiment,” said Charalambos Pissouros, senior analyst at IronFX Global, in a note.

The euro fell to $1.1209 compared with $1.1249 late Monday. The shared currency declined 0.4% against the Japanese yen to ¥125.65.

The blasts are believed in retaliation for last week’s arrest of Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the deadly Paris attacks in November.

Indexes: Several major European equity indexes erased morning losses and finished slightly in positive territory. In Paris, the CAC 40  managed to close up 0.1% at 4,431.97, and Germany’s DAX 30 gained 0.4% to finish at 9,990.

The U.K.’s FTSE 100 ended 0.1% higher at 6,192.74.

U.S. stocks were also trimming losses in recent trading Tuesday, while gold futures  stayed higher on apparent haven demand.

Economic data: German business sentiment improved in March. The Ifo Institute said its business climate index rose to 106.7 from 105.7 in February, above a 105.9 reading expected in a survey by The Wall Street Journal.

Separately, eurozone economic activity picked up in March, according to surveys of purchasing managers. Markit’s composite purchasing managers index rose to 53.7, but businesses reported only a slight increase in new orders and hiring.

Source: MarketWatch

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