EMERGING MARKETS-Latam stocks, currencies mostly stable ahead of Fed
By Asher Levine SAO PAULO, March 19 (Reuters) - Latin American stocks and currencies were mostly stable on Wednesday as investors paused ahead of a policy statement by U.S. Federal Reserve and press conference with Fed Chair Janet Yellen half an hour later. The MSCI Latin American stock index crept higher from Tuesday's close. Brazil's Bovespa index advanced to 46,400 points, though Mexican and Chilean shares ticked lower. While the Fed is widely expected to continue reducing the pace of its bond-buying stimulus program, traders will be watching for hints on how fast that taperng will be carried out. Investor concerns over the reduction in stimulus helped contribute to a broad selloff of emerging market assets earlier this year. The Bovespa rose 0.6 percent, bouncing further off the eight-month lows hit on Friday and adding to the 2.6 percent advance notched over the previous two sessions. Most of the gains were concentrated in widely traded stocks, including state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA and lender Itau Unibanco Holdings SA. Brazil's currency, the real, strengthened about 0.4 percent against the dollar, with trading volumes thin ahead of the Fed announcement. Chile's peso was little changed as dollar sales resulting from the expiration of unrenewed currency forward contracts offset the effect of lower copper prices, traders said. Mexico's peso was nearly unchanged for a second day. Analysts have been hopeful that major telecommunications, banking and energy reforms pushed through Congress last year will eventually contribute to greater foreign investment and economic growth. "We still see the peso as an outperformer in the emerging markets context, on account of the reform momentum and the economy's ties to the U.S.," wrote UBS analyst Rafael De La Fuente in an investor note on Wednesday. "However, with the Fed tapering ongoing, and no major reform-related foreign direct investment expected in the short term, there is no clear catalyst for the currency to appreciate strongly in the short term." Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1535 GMT: Stock indexes daily % YTD % Latest change change MSCI Emerging Markets 950.4 0.8 -4.34 MSCI LatAm 2929.18 0.55 -8.99 Brazil Bovespa 46429.42 0.6 -9.86 Mexico IPC 38802.27 -0.03 -9.19 Chile IPSA 3653.11 -0.56 -1.25 Chile IGPA 18067.9 -0.45 -0.87 Argentina MerVal 5899.3 0.26 9.43 Colombia IGBC 13090.36 0.49 0.15 Peru IGRA 14619.42 -0.39 -7.20 Venezuela IBC 2588.21 0.29 -5.42 Currencies daily % YTD % change change Latest Brazil real 2.3305 0.41 1.13 Mexico peso 13.1595 0.00 -0.98 Chile peso 569.2 -0.04 -7.57 Colombia peso 2013.59 0.81 -4.05 Peru sol 2.814 -0.04 -0.75 Argentina peso (interbank) 7.8775 0.06 -17.58 Argentina peso (parallel) 10.85 0.74 -7.83 (Additional reporting by Froilán Romero in Santiago)
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