EMERGING MARKETS-Latam stock markets rally after Crimea vote
By Asher Levine SAO PAULO, March 17 (Reuters) - Latin American stock markets tracked global equities markets higher on Monday as investors awaited the next steps in the standoff between Western powers and Russia over the future of Crimea. The MSCI Latin American stock index rose for the first session in four, adding 0.9 percent while the broader MSCI index for emerging markets gained 0.6 percent. Bourses in Brazil, Chile and Mexico had fallen in recent days as investors feared tensions centered around Sunday's referendum over the Crimea region's political allegiance would stoke violence and economic turbulence. While the referendum for Crimea to become part of Russia was held without major violence, it remains to be seen whether the European Union and the United States will escalate economic sanctions far enough to weaken Russia, which could retaliate by cutting its energy exports to the West. "It seems as if markets had already anticipated these developments," said Luciano Rostagno, chief strategist with Banco Mizuho in Sao Paulo. "The market is on hold, waiting to see what Putin will say and what the West's reaction will be." On Wall Street, U.S. stocks rose more than 1 percent on Monday while European stocks closed higher. In Russia, where equities had fallen last week to 4-1/2-year lows as investors anticipated sanctions, a benchmark stock index closed 3.7 percent higher. Brazil's benchmark Bovespa stock index bounced off more than eight-month lows hit on Friday, led mostly by bank shares. Chile's IPSA index gained slightly, led by a 2.8 percent rise in shares of LATAM Airlines Group SA, Latin America's largest air carrier. Mexico's stock market was closed for a local holiday. Brazil's real was mostly unchanged from Friday's close, while the Colombian and Mexican pesos both strengthened slightly. Chile's peso gained 0.35 percent against the dollar, boosted by a rise in the price for copper , Chile's main export. Yields paid on longer-dated contracts of Brazilian interest rate futures ticked higher after a weekly central bank poll showed economists raised their forecasts for year-end inflation to 6.11 percent from 6.01 percent a week earlier. "In the short term there is a worse outlook on inflation and some in the market have been skeptical about the government's finances," said Alfredo Barbutti, chief economist with BGC Liquidez in Sao Paulo. Brazil's social security deficit this year was underestimated by about 10 billion reais ($4.3 billion) by the government, Social Security Minister Garibaldi Alves told local newspaper Valor Economico on Monday, raising questions about the country's ability to meet its fiscal savings target this year. Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1900 GMT: Stock indexes daily % YTD % Latest change change MSCI Emerging 943.42 0.61 -6.48 Markets MSCI LatAm 2853.95 0.81 -11.56 Brazil Bovespa 45164.63 0.44 -12.31 Chile IPSA 3623.47 0.33 -2.05 Chile IGPA 17942 0.29 -1.56 Argentina MerVal 5746.27 -0.01 6.59 Colombia IGBC 13020.81 0.24 -0.39 Peru IGRA 14749.07 -0.38 -6.38 Venezuela IBC 2580.6 -2.16 -5.70 Currencies daily % YTD % change change Latest Brazil real 2.3487 0.08 0.34 Mexico peso 13.1635 0.35 -1.01 Chile peso 570.3 0.21 -7.75 Colombia peso 2034.75 0.35 -5.05 Peru sol 2.809 -0.21 -0.57 Argentina peso 7.9225 -0.28 -18.05 Argentina peso 10.85 0.92 -7.83
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