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EMERGING MARKETS-Latin American currencies hit by new coronavirus strain caution

    * Investors rush towards dollar safety
    * Mexican peso slumps to near 1-month low
    * Chilean peso tracks copper declines 

    By Shashank Nayar
    Dec 21 (Reuters) - Latin American currencies followed other
markets lower on Monday as investors moved into dollar assets
after Britain imposed tighter restrictions to curb a new
COVID-19 virus strain.
    Many countries suspended travel for Britons after Prime
Minister Boris Johnson warned that a mutated variant of the
coronavirus, up to 70% more transmissible, had been identified
in the country, heightening global concerns.
    The Brazilian real, Mexican and Chilean pesos
 tumbled, with investors rushing towards the dollar as the
new coronavirus fanned fears of further economic damage.
    "The greenback is having its best day since March as risk
aversion runs wild after the UK found a new COVID-19 strain,"
Edward Moya, an analyst at Oanda in New York, said. 
    Fears about the virus more than offset optimism as U.S.
congressional leaders finally agreed on a $900 billion COVID-19
relief package. Hopes of fresh U.S. stimulus as well as signs of
progress in COVID-19 vaccinations had supported the region's
markets in the past weeks.
    Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said in a
video on Saturday that the rush for a vaccine is not justified
and again affirmed that the pandemic is over.
    Mexico's currency fell to its lowest level in almost a month
as crude oil prices tumbled by more than $3 before trimming
losses as fresh lockdown measures in Europe sparked worries of a
slower recovery in fuel demand.
    The Chilean peso tracked losses in copper prices as the
dollar's biggest gain since September made metals priced in the
currency more expensive for buyers outside the United States. 
    
    Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies:
    
                                       Latest       Daily %
                                                     change
 MSCI Emerging Markets                    1254.74       -1.07
 MSCI LatAm                               2401.25       -2.64
 Brazil Bovespa                         116133.60        -1.6
 Mexico IPC                              43252.76       -1.42
 Chile IPSA                               4128.12       -1.96
 Argentina MerVal                        51140.10      -2.305
 Colombia COLCAP                          1390.03       -2.55 Currencies                  Latest       Daily %
                                                     change
 Brazil real                               5.1497       -1.30
 Mexico peso                              20.1530       -1.08
 Chile peso                                   730       -0.66
 Colombia peso                            3437.55       -0.59
 Peru sol                                  3.6058       -0.30
 Argentina peso (interbank)               83.1400       -0.36
                                                   
 
    

 (Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru;
Editing by Alexander Smith)
  
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