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EMERGING MARKETS-Brazil's real eyes worst week in over nine months

    * Real slides for fifth straight session
    * Oil jump boosts Mexico
    * Colombian peso logs longest losing streak of the year
    * Colombia central bank holds rates as expected 

 (Updates after Colombian central bank decision)
    By Sruthi Shankar and Susan Mathew
    March 26 (Reuters) - Brazil's real was on its longest losing
run this year on Friday, hit by worries about a coronavirus
pandemic that is spiraling out of control, while the Colombian
peso hit a four-month low.
    The real weakened for a fifth straight day,
down 1.4%, in what could be the longest losing streak since late
October. The currency was set to end with a weekly loss of about
4.5%, the steepest weekly loss since last June. 
    Brazil registered a record 100,158 new coronavirus cases on
Thursday, a day after it surpassed 300,000 fatalities from the
pandemic, the world's worst death toll after the United States.

    "Vaccines are rolling out gradually and the government does
not have the fiscal ammunition it did last year, and if it were
to pursue similar policies it would be flirting even closer with
a fiscal crisis scenario," Ramiro Sugranes, senior analyst for
Latam research at FrontierView, told the Reuters Global Markets
Forum.
    Meanwhile, a near 4% jump in crude prices after a massive
traffic jam caused by the blockage by a giant container ship of
the Suez Canal - a major global trade route - lifted oil
exporter Mexico's currency.
    Colombia's peso erased session gains, extending
losses to a fifth straight session, its longest this year. The
currency closed at session lows, down 0.6%. Shortly after, the
central bank held the key interest rate at 1.75% as expected,
aimed at boosting economic recovery amid inflation at record
lows.     
    "Inflation breakevens show a very benign outlook over the
longer term," said Lewis Jones, portfolio manager, emerging
markets debt at William Blair Investment Management. "An
expansionary monetary policy is further warranted by the
government's fiscal proposals ... in the hopes of avoiding the
country's sovereign credit rating being cut to sub-investment
grade."
    Colombia's policy decision comes after central banks in
Mexico, South Africa and the Philippines this week held interest
rates steady as they balanced the need for spurring economic
growth with keeping a lid on inflation. That stood in contrast
to the hawkish stance adopted by emerging market peers such as
Turkey, Brazil and Russia. 
    Still, an index of EM currencies was on
course for its biggest weekly decline since September as
investors snapped up the greenback on hopes of a stimulus-driven
U.S. economic recovery. 
    Latin American stocks were supported by
rising commodity prices on Friday, but were also headed for
weekly declines. 
    
    Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies:
  Stock indexes           Latest   Daily %
                                   change
 MSCI Emerging Markets    1299.63     0.87
                                   
 MSCI LatAm               2230.72     -0.9
                                   
 Brazil Bovespa         113666.16    -0.07
                                   
 Mexico IPC              46651.49    -0.77
                                   
 Chile IPSA               4845.75     1.64
                                   
 Argentina MerVal        46298.34   -1.191
                                   
 Colombia COLCAP          1312.81    -0.55
                                   
                                          
      Currencies          Latest   Daily %
                                   change
 Brazil real               5.7487    -1.39
                                   
 Mexico peso              20.5878     0.42
                                   
 Chile peso                 731.9    -0.94
                                   
 Colombia peso            3687.14    -0.59
                                   
 Peru sol                   3.732     0.05
                                   
 Argentina peso           91.8400    -0.07
 (interbank)                       
                                   
    
   

 (Additional reporting by Lisa Pauline Mattackal in Bengaluru
and Tom Arnold in London; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Leslie
Adler)
  
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