March 18 (Reuters) - Currencies in Latin America rose on Monday as the dollar slipped on prospects of the U.S. Federal Reserve sticking to an accommodative stance at its policy meeting this week, while stocks in Brazil tested new record highs. MSCI's index for Latin American currencies rose to a two-week high. Market participants expect the U.S. central bank to keep its benchmark overnight interest rate unchanged and stick to its pledge of a "patient" approach to monetary policy keeping sluggish global growth in mind. "As long as no inflation pressure arises the majority of FOMC members are unlikely to see any reason to hike the Fed funds rate anymore," Commerzbank analysts wrote in a note. "If anything, cautious steps towards a more expansionary policy have to be expected: a pause in the process of balance sheet reduction," the note added. Brazil's real rose marginally, while Mexico's peso rose 0.4 percent with lower than usual volumes as stock markets remained shut for a public holiday. Mexico will invite four companies to bid in a restricted tender for work building a new oil refinery for ailing state oil company Pemex, Energy Minister Rocio Nahle said at a news conference on Monday. Pemex, which holds the largest debt of any Latin American oil company was downgraded by rating agencies S&P and Fitch over the last two months, leaving questions hanging over Mexico's sovereign credit rating. Chile's peso rose 0.4 percent on the back of higher copper prices, while Colombia's peso tacked higher as oil edged above $67 a barrel on Monday. Shares in Sao Paulo's Bovespa tested new record high levels with most sectors edging higher barring materials. A more than 1 percent decline in iron ore miner Vale SA weighed on the index after the company announced further production cuts over the weekend. Stocks in Chile rose to their highest levels since March 2010, led by steel producer CAP. Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1450 GMT Stock indexes daily % Latest change MSCI Emerging Markets 1068.99 1.11 MSCI LatAm 2868.15 0.61 Brazil Bovespa 99501.95 0.37 Mexico IPC - - Chile IPSA 5336.97 0.24 Argentina MerVal 34317.45 1.13 Colombia IGBC 12970.44 0.29 Currencies daily % change Latest Brazil real 3.8083 0.31 Mexico peso 19.1273 0.38 Chile peso 666.9 0.34 Colombia peso 3102.1 0.58 Peru sol 3.297 0.03 Argentina peso 39.9700 2.03 (interbank) (Reporting by Agamoni Ghosh and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru Editing by Susan Thomas)
The iShares MSCI Brazil ETF (EWZ) fell $0.06 (-0.14%) in after-hours trading Tuesday. Year-to-date, EWZ has gained 9.64%, versus a 6.25% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.
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