EMERGING MARKETS-Mexico stocks gain on credit outlook, NAFTA optimism

SAO PAULO, April 12 (Reuters) - Mexican stocks and the peso currency gained slightly on Thursday amid optimism over North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations and a decision by Moody's on Wednesday to raise the nation's credit outlook. The peso strengthened 0.11 percent against the U.S. dollar, compared to Wednesday's reference price, as Mexico, the United States and Canada near a hard-fought conclusion to talks to overhaul NAFTA. The benchmark IPC stock index rose 0.52 percent, led by Grupo Bimbo, which rose 3.92 percent after it successfully placed a $500 million bond. The Brazilian real fell 0.63 percent against the dollar on Thursday, as weak retail sales figures raised bets of more monetary easing in Latin America's largest economy. The Brazilian government said February retail sales unexpectedly contracted, falling 0.2 percent from January, below even the most pessimistic forecast of a 0.3 percent increase in a Reuters poll of economists. Traders said the data cleared the way for the nation's central bank to keep cutting the benchmark Selic rate, which currently stands at 6.5 percent, keeping a lid on the real.

Key Latin American stock indexes at 2200 GMT:

Stock indexes Latest Daily YTD pct pct

change change

MSCI Emerging Markets 1,176.88 0.11 1.59 MSCI LatAm 3,070.21 0.49 8.56 Brazil Bovespa 85,443.53 0.23 11.83 Mexico IPC 48,782.56 0.52 -1.16 Chile IPSA 5,630.99 0.31 1.19 Chile IGPA 28,162.22 0.28 0.65 Argentina MerVal 32,038.79 0.02 6.56 Colombia IGBC 12,271.49 -0.26 7.92 Venezuela IBC 12,416.06 25.24 882.95

(Reporting by Gram Slattery, Claudia Violante and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by Dan Grebler)