* STOXX 600 posts monthly loss of 5.7%; worst since Jan, 2016
* Firms with Mexico exposure hit, Spanish lenders decline
* Auto sector drops, sector index plumbs near 5-month closing low
* Utilities, real estate stocks en vogue; investors rush for cover (Recasts throughout, adds quote and graphic, updates to close)
By Aaron Saldanha
May 31 (Reuters) - European stocks tanked on Friday, with auto-makers hit especially hard, after U.S. President Donald Trump widened the scope of his trade wars by threatening to impose new tariffs on Mexican imports. exited riskier equity positions and moved to safer ground, sending European defensive stocks higher and yields on German bonds to record lows. GVD/EUR
The pan-Europe STOXX 600 .STOXX fell 0.8% on the day to close out May with a 5.7% slide, its worst monthly loss since January 2016.
"President Donald Trump is playing a Game of Thrones with both foreign and domestic adversaries," Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research, wrote in a note.
"Since he is the president of the world's greatest economic and military power, he claimed that he will consummate lots of deals with them that will greatly benefit the U.S. in short order," said Yardeni, adding that "the results have been mostly disappointing so far."
Trump's move hit European stocks exposed to Latin America's second largest economy. Madrid-listed banks Santander SAN.MC , Sabadell SABE.MC and Bilbao BBVA.MC , all of whom have a sizable presence in Mexico, slid between 2.4% and 4.1%.
During May, tariff-exposed auto-stocks have greatly underperformed the STOXX 600, which itself has lagged the S&P 500 .SPX .
Milan-listed stocks .FTMIB fell 0.7%, with local banks .FTIT8300 matching that decline. The country's lenders were hit by the Bank of Italy warning that public debt could rise more than forecast this year. Wirecard WDIG.DE tumbled 8.7% after a Handelsblatt report on an investigation by authorities into fraudulent transactions in the sector. .SX6P edged 0.2% higher, while real estate stocks .SX86P - a refuge for investors at times of tariff turmoil - rose 0.6%.
Athens-traded stocks .ATG provided a rare spot of optimism on the day, rising 1.5% to a near 13-month peak. The index posted a 7.4% gain for May, aided by news of snap elections being called. Performance of STOXX 600 Auto and parts sub-index against STOXX 600 and S&P 500
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