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EMERGING MARKETS-Brazil real recovers as central bank intervenes, broader Latam markets sluggish

By Shreyashi Sanyal

* Brazilian real gains on central bank intervention * Argentina warns of 'deep debt restructuring' * Chilean peso hit by lower copper prices * Surge in coronavirus cases keeps investors risk averse (Updates prices) By Shreyashi Sanyal Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Brazilian real recovered slightly on Thursday after the central bank intervened in the currency market to ease selling pressure, while regional stocks came under pressure as the number of coronavirus deaths and infections surged in China. The real hit a record low earlier in the session before reversing course to trade 0.2% higher at 4.34 per dollar after the central bank sold $1 billion of foreign exchange swap contracts on the spot market, its first intervention since late November. Brazil's currency fell through 4.38 per dollar to a new low on Thursday after a five-day losing run, hit by a series downbeat data and lack of overseas demand for the country's assets with interest rates at a record low. Latest figures showed services activity in Brazil shrank 0.4% in December, suggesting the economy lost steam at the end of 2019. "I'm sure many people in Brazil will be happy to see any brief relief but the bigger story is that the real is going to continue weakening," said John Ashbourne, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics. Latin American stocks took a beating as a surge in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths jolted investors who were hoping the outbreak would peak soon. As of Thursday, total deaths in China from the SARS-CoV-2 virus were 1,367, up 254 from the previous day. The MSCI index of Latam stocks was down about 0.9%, with Argentine stocks dropping 3%. Argentina's Economy Minister Martin Guzman said the government was willing to pay its debts but did not have the money to do so, warning of a "a deep debt restructuring" ahead. The peso weakened against the dollar, while counter bond prices fell an average of 2%. The Mexican peso edged up after the central bank cut its benchmark interest rate for a fifth straight meeting, lowering it 25 basis points to 7.0% as expected. Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 2018 GMT: Stock indexes Latest Daily % change MSCI Emerging Markets 1105.21 -0.4 MSCI LatAm 2784.47 -0.94 Brazil Bovespa 115542.39 -0.97 Mexico IPC 44890.98 -0.99 Chile IPSA 4659.81 -0.17 Argentina MerVal 38640.30 -3.245 Colombia COLCAP 1654.63 -0.3 Currencies Latest Daily % change Brazil real 4.3443 0.25 Mexico peso 18.5960 0.09 Chile peso 795.3 -0.67 Colombia peso 3374.05 0.35 Peru sol 3.384 -0.18 Argentina peso (interbank) 61.3875 -0.26 (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; editing by Grant McCool and Richard Chang)