EMERGING MARKETS-Latam stocks fall on weak Chinese trade data
By Walter Brandimarte RIO DE JANEIRO, April 10 (Reuters) - Latin American stocks dropped on Thursday after weak Chinese trade data raised concern about demand for the region's commodity exports, although a rebound in copper imports by China boosted the Chilean peso. Benchmark stock indexes in Brazil, Mexico and Chile fell 0.3 percent or more after data showed China's import growth slowed sharply in March while its exports unexpectedly fell for the second straight month. "The data reinforces the market sentiment that China continues to slow down, which may have negative impact on other emerging economies," analysts with Brazil's BB Investimentos wrote in a research note. Shares of Brazil's mining company Vale SA slid 1.2 percent as investors feared the impact of lower Chinese demand for the company's iron ore exports. In foreign exchange markets, the Mexican peso weakened 0.3 percent after data showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits tumbled last week to the lowest level in nearly seven years. The number suggested U.S. policymakers may move faster than expected in removing monetary stimulus measures that have long supported appetite for risk in emerging markets. The Mexican peso was particularly vulnerable to losses after Wednesday data showed local inflation fell below the central bank's 4 percent limit in March, allowing policymakers to keep interest rates at record lows. BRAZIL TO END TIGHTENING CYCLE? While Mexico keeps interest rates steady to fuel an economic recovery, Brazil last week increased its benchmark Selic rate to 11 percent to fight stubborn inflation. Minutes of the Brazilian central bank's monetary policy meeting released on Thursday signaled the country's year-long monetary tightening cycle may be coming to an end, but still left the door open for one more rate increase. The minutes caused short-dated interest-rate futures in Brazil to fall, while long-dated contracts rose on the view that inflation will remain a problem in the long run. The minutes also supported gains in Brazil's exchange rate. The real strengthened 0.3 percent to 2.1881 per dollar as investors suspected that, rather than raising the Selic much higher this year, the central bank will resort to a stronger currency to curb inflation pressures. "Of course, the central bank has shifted to using the exchange rate as a tool to fight inflation," Kenneth Lam, Citi's strategist for Latin America, wrote in a note to clients. "Granted that they face near-term pressures from food prices, exchange rate is arguably more effective than rates to prevent inflation from breaching the all-important 6.5 percent level before the elections in October," he added. Even as China's trade data weakened in general, its copper imports rose more than 10 percent in March from February, driving higher the metal's price and the Chilean peso. The currency jumped 1.1 percent following a 0.6 percent rise in the price of copper, Chile's main export product. Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1700 GMT: Stock indexes daily % YTD % Latest change change MSCI Emerging 1022.24 0.73 1.21 Markets MSCI LatAm 3285.68 0.5 2.14 Brazil Bovespa 51020.27 -0.32 -0.95 Mexico IPC 40697.65 -0.59 -4.75 Chile IPSA 3843.11 -0.54 3.89 Chile IGPA 18829.49 -0.45 3.31 Argentina MerVal 6508.08 0.49 20.72 Colombia IGBC 13793.71 0.32 5.53 Peru IGRA 14777.49 1.4 -6.20 Venezuela IBC 2519.88 -0.25 -7.92 Currencies daily % YTD % change change Latest Brazil real 2.1896 0.32 7.64 Mexico peso 13.0252 -0.36 0.04 Chile peso 543.9 1.12 -3.27 Colombia peso 1917.25 0.56 0.77 Peru sol 2.783 0.25 0.36 Argentina peso 8.0000 0.03 -18.84 (interbank) Argentina peso 10.33 0.10 -3.19 (parallel) (Additional reporting by Priscila Jordao in Sao Paulo; Editing by Grant McCool)
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