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EMERGING MARKETS-Mexican peso supported by inflation data after 4-day losing run

    * Mexico's inflation climbs to 2-yr high
    * Brazil sees record COVID-19 deaths
    * Carrefour Brasil soars after BIG deal 

 (Updates prices throughout, adds comments)
    By Sruthi Shankar and Shreyashi Sanyal
    March 24 (Reuters) - The Mexican peso held steady against
the dollar on Wednesday after four straight sessions of losses
as signs of quickening inflation raised expectations that the
central bank will hold interest rates after a policy meeting on
Thursday.
    The peso also outperformed its major emerging market
peers that were held down by a resurgent dollar.
    Mexico's national statistics agency said consumer price
inflation climbed to 4.12% during the first two weeks of March,
beating the consensus forecast of 3.91%, as per a Reuters poll
of analysts.
    The new level is the highest since the second half of May
2019 after it stood at 3.68% in late February. 
    "This data release is probably the final nail in the coffin
for Banxico's easing cycle," said Nikhil Sanghani, Latin America
economist at Capital Economics. 
    A poll of economists earlier this week forecast the Bank of
Mexico's five-member board will likely leave interest rates
unchanged for the time being, though opinions were divided.

    The central bank cut its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis
points to 4% in February, flagging uncertainty over the
outlook.
    "We expect it (Mexican central bank) to keep the policy rate
on hold at 4.00% at tomorrow's meeting. But with inflation
likely to fall later this year, we doubt the central bank will
be in a rush to hike rates anytime soon," Sanghani said. 
    A strengthening dollar, a plunge in the Turkish lira after
the abrupt removal of the central bank chief and weaker
commodity prices all took a toll on developing world currencies
this week.
    Brazil's real extended losses for a third day after
the country suffered a record 3,251 COVID-19 deaths, underlining
the scale of the outbreak which is spiraling out of control,
thanks to a lumpy vaccine rollout and a messy patchwork of
public health restrictions.
    President Jair Bolsonaro said on Wednesday he will hold a
weekly meeting with the state governors to discuss the
pandemic.
    Brazil's Bovespa stock index got a boost from a 13%
surge in Carrefour Brasil's common shares after the
announcement of a 7 billion real ($1.3 billion) deal to acquire
rival BIG.
    Smiles Fidelidade gained almost 7% after airline
Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes raised the premium
paid to shareholders in a proposed merger with its loyalty
program. Gol's shares rose 3%.
    
    Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1916 GMT:
    
    Stock indexes             Latest    Daily %
                                         change
 MSCI Emerging Markets         1298.78     -1.89
                                        
 MSCI LatAm                    2259.76     -1.43
                                        
 Brazil Bovespa              113463.35      0.18
                                        
 Mexico IPC                   46702.49      0.09
                                        
 Chile IPSA                    4842.43      0.82
                                        
 Argentina MerVal             48615.26     -1.16
                                        
 Colombia COLCAP               1330.01      0.77
                                        
                                                
       Currencies             Latest    Daily %
                                         change
 Brazil real                    5.5951     -1.42
                                        
 Mexico peso                   20.8896     -0.28
                                        
 Chile peso                      727.4     -0.67
                                        
 Colombia peso                 3646.65     -0.82
 Peru sol                       3.7227     -0.08
                                        
 Argentina peso                91.6300     -0.07
 (interbank)                            
                                        
 Argentina peso                    140      2.14
 (parallel)                             
                                        
 
 (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru;
Editing by Nick Macfie)
  
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