EMERGING MARKETS-Latam stocks sharply on China, Europe

Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:37am EDT

* Chinese economy grew at its slowest pace in 3 years

* Brazil Bovespa down 1.51 pct; Chile's IPSA down 0.49

* Mexican exchange corrects close after brokerage error

By Rachel Uranga and Jean Arce

BRASILIA/MEXICO CITY, April 13 (Reuters) - Latin American stocks fell across the board on Friday on worries the global economy may slow after China reported lackluster growth and fears over Europe's debt problems resurfaced in Spain.

The MSCI Latin American stock index was down 2.03 percent, losing 2.35 percent for the week in its sharpest weekly fall in more than a month.

"There is a lot of volatility out there because investors are still worried about Europe and the global economy," said Andre Perfeito, analyst with Gradual Investimentos in Sao Paulo.

"Any string of bad news is used as an excuse for profit-taking right now."

In Mexico, traders were puzzled by a drop of 1.7 percent in the index in the 15 minutes before the close. After trading ended, Mexico's exchange concluded that the abrupt drop was caused by a brokerage error and they set to work to adjust the index.

Mexico's IPC stock index officially closed at 39,137, officials said late on Friday. That tally came hours after the surprise fall that saw the index down 2.32 percent to 38,444 points.

Indexes that include the IPC also face revision.

Latin American stocks have risen about 10 percent this year after a sharp fall in 2011 when the European debt crisis threatened to sink the global economy.

On Friday, some of those fears crept back up when the cost of insuring Spanish government bonds hit an all-time high. Investors fretted about the finances of Spain, a country that has replaced Greece as the center of the crisis.

"The root of the problems for global markets is more based on the same old fears that we had last year: sovereign debt. It's clearly returning to focus," said Oliver Leyland at Mirae Asset Global Investments in Sao Paulo.

Next week, Spain will continue to test investors' confidence when it tries to sell new 2- and 10-year bonds at an auction being closely watched by investors of riskier assets, who tend to shed those assets when the global outlook turns sour.

Also pressuring shares, the Chinese government reported first-quarter growth came in at 8.1 percent, the slowest pace in three years and below the 8.3 percent consensus forecast of economists polled by Reuters.

China is the world's leading consumer of raw materials, and slower growth would dent demand and prices of commodities that are at the heart of many Latin American economies.

Latin America is a key source of global commodities like oil, copper, iron ore, soy and corn.

Brazil's benchmark Bovespa stock index was down 1.51 percent on Friday, its fourth drop in five days. The index fell 2.4 percent this week, its fourth consecutive week of losses.

Bank shares were being pressured by Brazil's toughened tone on private sector banks to bolster lending and lower interest rates, Leyland added.

Banks Itau Unibanco and Banco Bradesco both fell, losing 3.88 and 2.01 percent respectively.

In Mexico, shares of retailer and bank company Elektra fell sharply for the second straight day after the local exchange announced rule changes that will reduce the company's weighting in the benchmark index.

Elektra slipped 16.41 percent. The company's shares account for about 4 percent of the index's weight.

Chile's blue-chip IPSA stock index dropped 0.49 percent. The index logged its biggest weekly drop for the year, falling 2.5 percent.

The IPSA has been steadily falling, and a trader called it "an expected and healthy correction." The index had closed at an 8-1/2-month high on the first trading day of April.

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