August 8, 2018 / 3:39 PM / a year ago

EMERGING MARKETS-Argentine equities hit again by sprawling corruption probe

    SAO PAULO/BUENOS AIRES, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Argentine equities
tumbled for the second straight day on Wednesday as investor
concerns grew that a massive corruption probe that began last
week could expand and affect more companies.
    The wide-ranging investigation has already swept up
construction magnates accused of attempting to secure contracts
by delivering millions of dollars in bribes to officials in
former President Cristina Fernandez's government. Executives at
Techint, the parent company of steel company Ternium SA,
have also been questioned.
    The probe comes on top of a major drought and a recent run
on the peso currency that caused the government to
hike interest rates and seek financing from the International
Monetary Fund. Those events have raised the specter of a GDP
contraction in 2018.
    "The political certainty is adding onto the list of
uncertainties for local investors, who are continuing to put an
emphasis on caution," said Gustavo Ber, a partner at Buenos
Aires-based consultancy Estudio Ber.
    The benchmark Merval index was off 1.07 percent in
mid-day trade, after tumbling 3.6 percent on Tuesday.
    Across the region, equities markets were mixed, as trade
tensions steadily escalated, with China slapping 25 percent
tariffs on another $16 billion dollars worth of U.S. goods.

    Brazil's Bovespa was up 0.33 percent in mid-day
trade, while Mexico's IPC was off 0.16 percent.
    Top gainers on the Bovespa included steelmakers Gerdau
 and Companhia Siderurgica Nacional, whose
shares rose to multimonth highs on Wednesday after their
quarterly earnings beat forecasts thanks to a jump in metal
prices linked to U.S. tariffs.
    The two biggest losers were retailers Via Varejo SA
, parent company GPA and Magazine Luiza SA
, which all fell at least 3 percent after Magazine
Luiza denied to newspaper Valor Economico any talks for a
potential tie-up with Via Varejo. 
Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1509 GMT:
 Stock indexes                           daily %     YTD %
                             Latest       change    change
 MSCI Emerging Markets         1081.31      0.14     -6.79
 MSCI LatAm                    2729.44     -0.42     -3.09
 Brazil Bovespa               80607.99      0.33      5.50
 Mexico IPC                   49883.35     -0.16      1.07
 Argentina MerVal             27484.99     -1.07     -8.58
 Colombia IGBC                12067.66     -0.23      6.13
 Venezuela IBC               103339.25      0.18   8081.14
 Currencies                              daily %     YTD %
                                          change    change
 Brazil real                    3.7487      0.47    -11.61
 Mexico peso                   18.4485      0.02      6.78
 Chile peso                     643.18     -0.12     -4.44
 Colombia peso                  2905.1     -0.49      2.65
 Peru sol                        3.268      0.00     -0.95
 Argentina peso                27.5000     -0.35    -32.36
 Argentina peso                  27.85     -0.36    -30.95

 (Reporting by Gram Slattery and Walter Bianchi
Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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