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EMERGING MARKETS-Latam FX firm as Fed meets expectations on rate cut signals

Susan Mathew

(Updates prices) June 19 (Reuters) - Latin American currencies firmed on Wednesday, with Brazil's real and Mexico's peso reversing session losses to trade higher after the Federal Reserve signaled possible rate cuts of as much as half a percentage point in 2019. Brazil's real was up 0.2%, reversing losses of up to 0.6% logged earlier in the day, while Mexico's peso rose 0.1%, recovering from a decline of as much as 0.4%. Other regional currencies added to their gains. Most Latam stocks followed suit, with Sao Paulo-traded shares erasing losses to trade 0.8% higher, while gains in Mexican and Colombian stocks were bolstered. "As is stands, it (Fed statement) is EM positive and dollar negative," said Christian Lawrence, a senior market strategist at Rabobank. The dollar fell sharply after the Fed held rates unchanged. Chair Jerome Powell reiterated at the press conference that members of the Federal Open Market Committee see a stronger case for rate cuts. This met broad market expectations.

The Fed move comes just a day after the European Central Bank chief's sharp dovish turn had fueled hopes of a global wave of central bank stimulus which gave a fillip to markets worldwide. Investors in Brazil's real will now be watching for the local central bank's interest rate decision at market close, which is also expected to signal rate cuts while holding the key rate steady at this meeting. "The combination of weak data and increased pension reform approval chances have led markets to price in almost 70 basis points of cuts in 2019," Morgan Stanley strategists said in a note, adding that a rate cut before September seemed unlikely. "We do think that there might be greater room to cut as the neutral rate continues to decline. So, if the central bank were to approach a potential easing cycle similar to how it has done in the past, then markets could price in an additional 100-125 bp of cuts next year," they said. Meanwhile, gains on Brazil's Bovespa stock index were limited by a 5% slump in Smiles Fidelidade. Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes, the country's largest domestic airline, said it had failed to reach an agreement to buy out its independently listed loyalty program, Smiles Fidelidade, after five months of negotiations.

Gol shares traded 3% higher, reversing early losses. Stock indexes in Chile and Argentina stayed in the red, although those in Chile cut some losses. Data showed that Argentina's economy contracted 5.8% in the first quarter of 2019 versus the same period a year earlier.

Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1930 GMT:

Stock indexes Latest Daily

pct change

MSCI Emerging Markets 1,040.73 1.64MSCI LatAm 2,815.17 0.72Brazil Bovespa 100,219.92 0.82Mexico IPC 43,351.80 0.44Chile IPSA 5,036.11 -0.09Argentina MerVal 40,315.88 -0.91Colombia IGBC 12,548.38 0.82Currencies Latest Daily %

change

Brazil real 3.8531 0.16Mexico peso 19.0918 0.14Chile peso 692.2 0.58Colombia peso 3,236.03 0.53Peru sol 3.329 0.09Argentina peso (interbank) 43.2800 0.49

(Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)