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EMERGING MARKETS-Latam currencies gain as U.S. data hits dollar, virus fears hurt stocks

By Susan Mathew

(Updates prices) * Dollar slumps after weak U.S. business activity data * Brazil's real comes off all-time low * Vale posts surprise loss, slams Sao Paulo stocks * Brazil, Argentina to remain shut until Wednesday By Susan Mathew Feb 21 (Reuters) - Most Latin American currencies firmed on Friday, reversing course from earlier in the session as the dollar took a hit from data that showed business activity in the United States stalled in February. Brazil's real came off all-time lows to rise for the first time in five sessions, up 0.2%. Over the week, the currency lost around 2% in its seventh weekly loss in eight. Crude exporter Colombia's peso rallied 0.7%, despite falling oil prices, while higher copper prices helped the Chilean peso recover from a 1.4% slide in the previous session. Mexico's peso traded 0.1% lower but was well off the day's lows, when it hit a two-month trough against the greenback. The dollar slumped after a survey of purchasing managers showed U.S. business activity in the manufacturing and services sectors stalled in February as companies have grown increasingly concerned about the coronavirus. "The PMIs tentatively suggest that our first-quarter growth forecasts will prove too optimistic," said Simon Macadam, global economist at Capital Economics, suggesting more pain may in store for risk assets as investors reassess global growth expectations. Regional stocks fell, in line with a downturn in global stocks, as investors worried about a prolonged impact from the virus as China reported an uptick in cases and the number doubled in South Korea, while more than 80 people tested positive for the virus in Japan. "The concern is that up till now this has been a China problem, but now there is increasing concern that it is moving to South Korea and Japan," said Jonathan Bell, chief investment officer at Stanhope Capital. Brazilian stocks lost more than 1% as iron ore miner Vale SA slipped almost 4% after reporting an unexpected quarterly loss. Vale severely missed quarterly profit and margin estimates, largely due to impairments related to its base metal and coal operations and the lingering effects of a deadly dam burst in January 2019. Colombia's benchmark COLCAP index slid 2.7% in its worst day in two years. Oil major Ecopetrol fell 0.4%, tracking oil prices lower. Brazil and Argentina geared up for an extended weekend on account of the carnival festival, with markets set to reopen on Wednesday. Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1843 GMT: Stock indexes Latest Daily % change MSCI Emerging Markets 1083.25 -1.1 MSCI LatAm 2697.72 -1.2 Brazil Bovespa 113098.44 -1.3 Mexico IPC 44790.75 0.04 Chile IPSA 4538.08 0.04 Argentina MerVal 38578.89 -0.982 Colombia COLCAP 1623.81 -2.74 Currencies Latest Daily % change Brazil real 4.3870 0.09 Mexico peso 18.8560 -0.15 Chile peso 802.3 0.54 Colombia peso 3378 0.69 Peru sol 3.385 0.18 Argentina peso 61.8375 -0.08 (interbank) (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Susan Mathew in Bengaluru Editing by Marguerita Choy and Tom Brown)