EMERGING MARKETS-Latam stocks rise on earnings, Ukraine optimism
By Asher Levine SAO PAULO, March 18 (Reuters) - Latin American stock markets rallied on Tuesday, driven by encouraging corporate news in Brazil and easing investor concerns over an escalation of tensions in Ukraine. The MSCI Latin American stock index posted its biggest daily advance in nearly two weeks, while Brazil's Bovespa rebounded further from a recent eight-month low. Mexican shares reopened sharply higher after a market holiday on Monday, when global equities markets jumped after a referendum for Crimea to become part of Russia was held without major violence. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin further calmed markets when he said he did not want to seize other parts of Ukraine apart from Crimea. "The market's big worry was that the situation in Crimea could become the beginning of a series of negative developments (across the wider region), though people are beginning to see it as more of an isolated conflict," said Flavio Serrano, senior economist with Espirito Santo Investment Bank in Sao Paulo. Among Brazilian stocks making gains were shares of telecommunications firm Grupo Oi SA, which rallied 5 percent. Reuters reported on Tuesday that Oi lined up firm commitments from as many as 14 banks to buy up to 6 billion reais ($2.6 billion) in an upcoming share offering. Shares of education firm Kroton Educacional SA and electric utility Copel both rose more than 5 percent after reporting strong fourth-quarter earnings. Brazilian shares have found technical support near 45,000 points in recent days, though investors remain skeptical of the Bovespa index. Local stocks have plunged 21 percent over the past 12 months on a host of concerns including higher interest rates, weak economic growth, and the potential for errant government policies ahead of October's presidential election. "The market is weak, with many macroeconomic factors weighing on riskier assets, such as Chinese growth concerns, Ukraine, and inflation in Brazil," said Hersz Ferman, an economist with Elite Corretora in Rio de Janeiro. "Now and then we see (signs of) a recovery and the Bovespa is holding onto 45,000 points, but we don't know how long that will last." Latin American currencies mostly strengthened as risk appetite increased, with Chile's peso reversing morning losses caused by traders seeking out dollars to renew currency forward contracts. The Colombian and Mexican pesos both remained little-changed from Monday's close. Brazil's real strengthened about 0.5 percent against the dollar while yields on Brazilian interest rate futures ticked higher after central bank chief Alexandre Tombini told a Senate hearing that the bank should act to limit the effects of a recent increase in food prices. Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1746 GMT: Stock indexes daily % YTD % Latest change change MSCI Emerging Markets 951.12 0.84 -5.93 MSCI LatAm 2899.88 1.78 -10.99 Brazil Bovespa 45848.33 1.62 -10.99 Mexico IPC 38485.68 1.41 -9.93 Chile IPSA 3664.64 0.92 -0.93 Chile IGPA 18110.14 0.76 -0.64 Argentina MerVal 5862.18 1.72 8.74 Colombia IGBC 13050.04 -0.03 -0.16 Peru IGRA 14731.18 -0.25 -6.49 Venezuela IBC 2588.21 0.29 -5.42 Currencies daily % YTD % change change Latest Brazil real 2.3370 0.52 0.85 Mexico peso 13.1492 0.06 -0.91 Chile peso 569 0.23 -7.54 Colombia peso 2031.14 0.09 -4.88 Peru sol 2.812 -0.32 -0.68 Argentina peso (interbank) 7.8775 0.06 -17.58 Argentina peso (parallel) 10.87 0.28 -8.00
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