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EMERGING MARKETS-Mexican peso weakens after top Trump economic aide resigns

(Recasts with Cohn resignation, updates prices) MEXICO CITY, March 6 (Reuters) - Mexico's peso currency weakened late on Tuesday after the top economic adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to step down, sparking fears that protectionist trade sentiment is gaining influence in Washington. After markets closed, White House Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs banker and free trade advocate, said he planned to resign as Trump showed no sign of backing away from imposing new tariffs of steel and aluminum imports. Mexico's peso currency fell more than 0.5 percent after news of Cohn's resignation was reported. The peso has swung wildly over the past year on concerns that Trump could rip up a free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. Carlos Vejar, a trade expert who was head counsel negotiator for Mexico on the original Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, said Cohn's departure removed a moderating influence on protectionist tendencies inside the White House. "However, the main concern for Mexico is NAFTA, not the steel tariffs," he said. Going forward, the main question occupying Mexico would be who replaces Cohn inside the Trump administration, Vejar added. Earlier in the day, most Latin American markets rose as Trump's plan to slap tariffs on the metal imports faced stiff opposition from U.S. lawmakers. The surprise tariff announcement coincided with the latest round of talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and Mexico's top trade official on Tuesday rejected making a bilateral trade treaty with the United States if the three-way talks collapse. In Ecuador, President Lenin Moreno named a new finance minister following the unexpected resignation of his top finance official, as his government prepared to announce a plan to revive its sluggish economy.

Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 2154 GMT:

Stock indexes Latest daily % change YTD % change MSCI Emerging 1193.93 1.51 3.06

Markets

MSCI LatAm 3104.35 0.6 9.77 Brazil Bovespa 85653.02 -0.43 12.11 Mexico IPC 47884.63 0.34 -2.98 Chile IPSA 5548.21 0.17 -0.29 Chile IGPA 27800.45 0.13 -0.64 Argentina MerVal 32864.98 2.28 9.31 Colombia IGBC 11430.15 0.39 0.52 Venezuela IBC 4739.99 10.31 275.25 Currencies Latest daily % change YTD % change Brazil real 3.2085 0.04 3.27 Mexico peso 18.7425 0.27 5.10 Chile peso 599.85 0.00 2.47 Colombia peso 2853 -0.05 4.52 Peru sol 3.25 0.00 -0.40 Argentina peso 20.3100 -0.44 -8.42

(interbank)

Argentina peso 20.38 -0.49 -5.64

(parallel)

(Reporting by Dave Graham and David Alire Garcia in Mexico City and Bruno Federowski in Brasilia; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Diane Craft)