* Brazil’s real edges up; inflation data raises rate hike case * Eletrobras jumps 6% after privatization plan unveiled * Ecopetrol posts 87.3% drop in annual profit (Adds details, updates prices) By Susan Mathew and Ambar Warrick Feb 24 (Reuters) – Colombia’s peso led gains across Latin American currencies on Wednesday tracking strength in oil prices, with most other stocks and currencies rising slightly as the dollar retreated on dovish signals from the Federal Reserve. The peso rose about 0.8% as oil prices climbed to fresh 13-month highs on U.S. data pointing to a drop in crude output after a deep freeze disrupted production. But ratings agency Fitch said Colombia’s outlook remained negative due to continued risks to growth from the COVID-19 pandemic. Other Latin American currencies recovered further from recent losses after Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that U.S. interest rates would remain low, which pressured the dollar. Brazil’s real rose slightly as consumer confidence data showed a rise for the first time in five months, and the current account deficit in the year to January as a share of GDP shrank to its smallest in 13 years. But separate data showed inflation jumped further away from the central bank’s target. “This shifts the balance a bit further (for) an interest rate hike at the next Copom meeting in March,” said Nikhil Sanghani, a Latam economist at Capital Economics, referring to the Brazilian central bank’s policy committee. Mexico’s peso rose 0.4% as data showed consumer price inflation accelerated by less than forecast in the first two weeks of February. Chile’s peso scaled a seven-week high as copper prices stayed at over nine-year highs. Barring Chile’s peso, most other Latin American currencies have come under pressure from a surge in U.S. treasury yields in recent sessions, as investors seek safer returns in fixed income. Latin American assets have also lagged their broader emerging market peers due to a relatively weaker economic recovery in the region. Among stocks, Brazil’s Bovespa index rose 0.1% as shares of state-controlled oil firm Petrobras continued to recover, gaining 1.4%. They had plunged 22% on Monday after Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro ousted the company’s chief executive, sparking wider fears of intervention by the government in other sectors. Shares of Eletrobras jumped 5.7% after Bolsonaro delivered a privatization plan for the power utility to Congress overnight. Colombia’s state-run oil firm Ecopetrol rose 0.7% as it outlined a $15 billion investment program for the next two years. But the company logged an 87% drop in 2020 net profit. Elsewhere, South Africa’s rand shot to its highest level since January last year after South Africa’s Treasury lowered its annual budget deficit forecast. Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies: Latest Daily % change MSCI Emerging Markets 1377.29 -1.5 MSCI LatAm 2354.19 0.51 Brazil Bovespa 115464.64 0.21 Mexico IPC 45241.43 -0.06 Chile IPSA 4576.41 1.94 Argentina MerVal 49600.93 3.645 Colombia COLCAP 1364.52 0.68 Currencies Latest Daily % change Brazil real 5.4280 0.27 Mexico peso 20.4175 0.40 Chile peso 700.4 0.50 Colombia peso 3562.5 0.83 Peru sol 3.6438 0.22 Argentina peso 89.6600 -0.13 (interbank) (Reporting by Susan Mathew and Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru, and Tom Arnold in London Editing by Paul Simao and Sonya Hepinstall)
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