EMERGING MARKETS-Latam assets trend lower, but eye weekly gains on trade optimism, 2020 outlook

Ambar Warrick

optimism, 2020 outlook@

* Brazil shares dip from record highs

* MSCI Latam stocks up about 1.8% for the week

* Moderately optimistic about EM in 2020 -analyst

(Writes through with details on USMCA, updates prices) Dec 20 (Reuters) - Latin American markets descended from recent peaks on Friday, but were set to end higher for the week amid positive trade headlines and a relatively strong outlook for 2020. The MSCI's indexes of Latin American stocks and currencies were both set for weekly gains, having benefited largely from risk-on buying after the United States and China signed an interim trade deal. Analysts also expect growth in the region to improve in the next year, after having bottomed out during 2019 as a result of a mix of trade ructions and local political strife. "2020 is still a lot of question marks. We're moderately constructive on EM, but we're not raging bulls. The concerns that were there a month ago have definitely eased," said Win Thin, head of emerging market currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman. "In general, Latin America looks a lot better than it did a month ago." Mexican assets trended in a flat-to-lower range on Friday. The U.S. House of Representatives late on Thursday backed a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, with Mexico's finance minister flagging increased jobs and investment for the country from the deal. Brazil stocks retreated about 0.3%, coming off two consecutive record-high finishes. Latin America's largest economy has seen a recovery in growth over the fourth quarter, stemming from the effects of a recent easing cycle by the country's central bank. Widespread pension reforms are also expected to push government money into improving infrastructure. The real weakened against the dollar. A poll showed that the approval rating of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's government is dropping steadily, and that his negative rating is climbing. Data earlier in the day showed Brazil's IPCA-15 consumer price index rising at a better-than-expected rate in the month up to mid-December. The country's Chile's stock index was slightly lower, while the peso surged after Congress approved a plan to ask voters whether the country needed a new constitution. The issue has been a central demand of protesters who have brought the country to a near standstill since October and prompted central bank intervention to protect the peso. Argentine stocks rose, while the peso was muted after the country appointed a government team to kick off talks with creditors to renegotiate about $100 billion in sovereign debt. Concerns over the country defaulting on its debt had sparked a currency crisis earlier in the year.

Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1900 GMT:


(Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler)