* 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% higher. 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 (interbank) (Reporting by Ambar Warrick and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio and Matthew Lewis)
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