EMERGING MARKETS-Latam assets up; Brazil gains on OPEC membership talks

    * Brazil to start discussions on joining OPEC in July
    * Broader Latam tracks global relief rally over China virus
    * Argentine bonds fall as debt deadline postponed; peso flat

 (Adds market details, updates prices)
    By Ambar Warrick
    Jan 22 (Reuters) - Brazilian stocks and the real led gains
across Latin America on Wednesday as the country looks to start
discussions on joining OPEC, while most regional assets rose
amid waning concerns over a Chinese virus.
    Brazilian Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque said Brazil will
begin talks on joining the Organization of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries when he visits Saudi Arabia in July.
    The country, whose crude production has expanded rapidly,
would likely have to comply with OPEC supply curbs. Brazil is
also poised to sign supply deals with India, one of the largest
oil importers in the world.
    The real strengthened 0.6% to the dollar, while Sao
Paulo stocks rose 0.6%. However, shares of state-run oil
firm Petrobras fell slightly.
    Across Latin America, stocks and currencies rose slightly,
tracking a recovery in global risk assets amid hopes that the
spread of a new flu-like virus in China would be contained.

     MSCI's index for Latin American equities
rose 0.9%, a day after its biggest daily decline in nearly two
months. The currencies index was about 0.4%
     Fears over economic disruptions by the Chinese virus had
rattled global markets on Tuesday, although
analysts downplayed the likely impact.
     "The spread of a new coronavirus across Asia and into the
U.S. is clearly a major public health concern, but we suspect
that its economic effects will be modest," said Jennifer
McKeown, head of global economics at Capital Economics.
    "Even the significant economic disruption related to SARS
turned out to be temporary and experts expect this disease to be
less deadly and better contained."
    The Argentine peso was largely flat, while stocks
 rose slightly as the provincial government in Buenos
Aires was forced to extend a deadline for creditors to agree or
reject a plan to delay a $250 million bond repayment originally
due on Jan. 26.
    Argentine sovereign and provincial bonds fell after the
extension, reflecting broader concerns over the country
defaulting on its debt obligations.
    The Argentine peso had crashed last year due to the same
concerns, and was among the worst performing emerging market
currencies in 2019.
    The Chilean peso firmed against the dollar after
deputy central bank governor Joaquin Vial promised intervention
if violent protests threatened the currency again. Vial also
expressed hope that relative calm in recent weeks would be
enough to keep the country out of recession. 
    Violent protests in the country last year had drastically
undercut the peso and prompted central bank intervention to
stabilize the currency.
    Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1915 GMT
    Stock indexes             Latest     Daily % change
 MSCI Emerging Markets         1133.85            0.6212
 MSCI LatAm                    2904.15               0.9
 Brazil Bovespa              117780.25              0.64
 Mexico IPC                   45722.45              0.19
 Chile IPSA                    4669.98             -0.51
 Argentina MerVal             41750.99             0.639
 Colombia COLCAP               1652.09             -0.08 Currencies             Latest     Daily % change
 Brazil real                    4.1812              0.58
 Mexico peso                   18.6830              0.43
 Chile peso                      770.3              0.38
 Colombia peso                  3329.5              0.72
 Peru sol                        3.313              0.12
 Argentina peso                60.0700              0.05

 (Reporting by Ambar Warrick and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru;
Editing by David Gregorio and Matthew Lewis)