EMERGING MARKETS-Brazil central bank surprises market with rate signal

(Adds final prices, details from the region) SAO PAULO, March 22 (Reuters) - Yields on Brazilian interest rate futures dropped on Thursday after the central bank unexpectedly indicated it will continue cutting interest rates, while fears of a U.S. trade war with China helped put pressure on Latin American markets. The bank on Wednesday reduced the benchmark Selic rate by 25 basis points to an all-time low of 6.50 percent, as widely expected. But policymakers were explicit in forecasting another cut at their May meeting, contradicting the consensus that this week would mark the end of the deepest easing cycle in a decade. After that, unless conditions change radically, it would stand pat, according to a policy statement. Yields on rate futures fell sharply as traders adjusted their bets. "Unless the Brazilian real comes under pressure for domestic or external reasons, the central bank will be in no hurry to begin the tightening cycle," economists at Societe Generale wrote in a report. The real weakened over 1 percent on concerns that lower rates could dampen demand for Brazilian assets. It was the biggest loser among Latin American currencies, which suffered the effect of growing fears of U.S. protectionism. Brazil's stock exchange, however, fell only 0.25 percent, as shares of steelmakers jumped after the United States government suspended a tariff hike on Brazilian steel and aluminum imports as it begins bilateral negotiations. Stock markets were down across Latin America after U.S. President Donald Trump launched anti-China tariffs, helping to push down the Mexican peso by more than 1 percent. Still, Argentina's peso rose after another intervention in the market by the central bank to support the currency. In Peru, the sol rose to its highest level in almost two months on news Vice President Martin Vizcarra would take power following the resignation on Wednesday of President Juan Pablo Kuczynski in the face of near-certain impeachment. Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 2330 GMT:

Stock indexes Latest Daily YTD pct pct

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MSCI Emerging Markets 1,196.73 -1.07 3.3 MSCI LatAm 3,029.01 -0.62 7.1 Brazil Bovespa 84,767.88 -0.25 10.95 Mexico IPC 47,342.78 -0.34 -4.04 Chile IPSA 5,515.99 -0.35 -0.87 Chile IGPA 27,661.66 -0.32 -1.14 Argentina MerVal 31,908.22 -1.43 6.13 Colombia IGBC 11,439.71 -1.73 0.61 Currencies Latest Daily YTD pct pct

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Brazil real 3.3099 -1.27 0.10 Mexico peso 18.641 -1.09 5.68 Chile peso 607.50 -0.33 1.18 Colombia peso 2,860 -0.18 4.27 Peru sol 3.236 0.46 0.03 Argentina peso (interbank) 20.2250 0.25 -8.02 Argentina peso (parallel) 21.03 0.38 -8.56

(Reporting by Bruno Federowski; Editing by James Dalgleish and Grant McCool)