EMERGING MARKETS-Latam stocks supported by Chinese stimulus hopes
RIO DE JANEIRO, March 24 (Reuters) - Most Latin American stocks and currencies gained on Monday on speculation China would unveil fresh stimulus measures to counter a weaker-than-expected performance of its manufacturing sector in the first quarter of the year. MSCI's benchmark stock index for Latin America rose 0.6 percent, extending last week's 5.5 percent rally that was supported by easing market fears about Ukraine's crisis. Brazil's benchmark Bovespa index jumped 1.2 percent, driven up by bank shares, after data showed China's manufacturing sector contracted in the first quarter, with the Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index falling to an eight-month low in March. Earlier this month, sources told Reuters the Chinese central bank was prepared to loosen monetary policy in order to keep the economy growing at 7.5 percent. China is a leading buyer of South American commodity exports. "China's PMI came in weak, initially weighing on Chinese stocks, but later there was this expectation that the government will launch stimulus measures," said Pedro Galdi, chief strategist at SLW brokerage in Sao Paulo. Brazil's real rose only modestly, however, after a string of gains that have been supported by expectations of additional dollar inflows to the country. More than $5 billion flew into Brazilian markets in March through last Thursday, central bank showed on Monday. Mexico's IPC stock index slid 0.1 percent as shares of the country's top broadcaster, Televisa, dropped 1.1 percent. Mexico's congress is considering a reform to curb the power of telecoms mogul Carlos Slim and Televisa. The Mexican peso rose 0.35 percent, however, in its third consecutive session of gains. Argentine markets were closed for a national holiday. Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1600 GMT: Stock indexes daily % YTD % change Latest change MSCI Emerging Markets 955.18 1.08 -5.76 MSCI LatAm 3018.63 1.0 -6.62 Brazil Bovespa 48027.17 1.36 -6.76 Mexico IPC 40079.71 0.14 -6.20 Chile IPSA 3643.36 0.28 -1.51 Chile IGPA 18085.25 0.2 -0.78 Colombia IGBC 13134.57 0.11 0.48 Peru IGRA 14317.17 -0.63 -9.12 Venezuela IBC 2332.32 -0.09 -14.77 Currencies daily % YTD % change Latest change Brazil real 2.3195 0.22 1.61 Mexico peso 13.1768 0.46 -1.11 Chile peso 563.5 -0.27 -6.64 Colombia peso 1995 -0.03 -3.16 Peru sol 2.815 0.00 -0.78 (Additional reporting by Priscila Jordao in Sao Paulo; editing by Andrew Hay)
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