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EMERGING MARKETS-Currencies firm against flat dollar; Mexico peso hits 2-week high

    * Russia's rouble nears seven-month high against dollar
    * BlackRock overweight on EM equities 
    * Argentine peso depreciation to slow in coming months
-Guzman

 (Adds comments, details, updates prices throughout)
    By Shreyashi Sanyal
    March 16 (Reuters) - Most major emerging market currencies
were higher on Tuesday against a largely flat dollar steadying
ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy decision.
    Russia's rouble touched its highest since July
despite declining oil prices, while Turkey's lira firmed
half a percent.
    Brazil's real rose 0.5% to 5.61 per dollar,
easing back from an initial gain to 5.56 after official figures
showed Brazil's economy created more than a quarter of a million
formal jobs in January, the strongest growth for that month
since comparable records began in 1992.
    Locally, eyes were on the central bank's rate meeting on
Wednesday when it was expected to hike rates to contain
inflation. 
    Elsewhere in Latin America, Mexico's peso hit a
two-week high, while Colombia's currency recovered from
its worst day in four months.
    Focus in Mexico as in most other markets was on the Fed's
policy decision, due ahead of Brazil's verdict on Wednesday. The
Fed has had interest rates pinned near zero for the past year,
and has promised to keep them there until the economy reaches
full employment, and inflation has hit a sustained 2%.

    The dollar steadied as investors awaited the Fed's signal to
make further investment choices. Riskier currencies such as
those of emerging markets thrive on U.S. interest rates
remaining low as they benefit from the interest rate
differential that increases their appeal for carry trade. 
    "A weaker U.S. dollar and synchronized global growth are
positives for emerging markets, and an on-hold Fed helps too,"
strategists at ING wrote in a note.
    Main stock indexes in Latam were mixed by afternoon trading,
compared with a 0.6% rise for a broader index of EM stocks
. 
    "We still expect EM equities to benefit from a global
cyclical upswing, supported by a stable U.S. dollar," said Jean
Boivin at BlackRock, adding the asset manager was overweight on
emerging equities and had used recent dips to add to its
exposure. 
    "The commodity price rally should also help resource-rich EM
economies, in our view."
    Peru's sol lagged peers, inching lower. 
    The country's populist presidential front-runner Yonhy
Lescano plans to renegotiate a fairer distribution of mining
wealth if elected to lead the world's No. 2 copper producer, and
also allow imports of cheaper natural gas, he told Reuters less
than a month before the April ballot.
    In Argentina, Economy Minister Martin Guzman said the
depreciation of the Argentine peso will slow over the
months ahead, leading to a slowdown in inflation. Meanwhile, the
government said Argentina's industrial output should grow more
than 6% this year versus 2020.
    The peso's official rate has fallen about 8% so far this
year.
    
    Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1931 GMT:
    
 Stock                             Latest     Daily % change
   indexes                                    
 MSCI Emerging Markets             1349.21    0.67
                                              
 MSCI LatAm                        2301.37    0.26
                                              
 Brazil Bovespa                    113807.62  -0.91
 Mexico IPC                        48124.68   0.74
 Chile IPSA                        4905.33    -0.17
 Argentina MerVal                  49579.82   -1.741
 Colombia COLCAP                   1354.26    -0.2
                                              
 Currencies                        Latest     Daily % change
 Brazil real                       5.6098     0.50
 Mexico peso                       20.5808    0.24
 Chile peso                        726.6      -0.54
 Colombia peso                     3557.75    -0.11
                                              
 Peru sol                          3.6997     0.08
 Argentina peso (interbank)        91.1300    -0.07
                                              
 Argentina peso (parallel)         141        3.55
                                              
 

 (Reporting by Susan Mathew and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru
Editing by Mark Heinrich and Lisa Shumaker)
  
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