Brazil Plays Catch-Up to the US and Stocks Shoot Up

Latin American markets  were generally higher, as Brazil shot up after yesterday's market  holiday and despite ongoing corruption investigations and lingering worries  about interest rates.

Argentina also gained ground, but Mexico slipped  amid modest strength on Wall Street. Volumes dried up ahead of the  market holiday in the U.S. on Monday.

Brazil's benchmark Bovespa Index jumped 777.06 points, or 3.17%, while  Mexico's benchmark Bolsa Index shed 21.25 points, or 0.16%. Argentina's  Merval Index rose 13.66 points, or 0.94%.

Brazilian stocks rallied today, surging after yesterday's public  holiday as the market played catch up following the U.S.-led advance. Still,  trading activity was largely thin in the wake of the holiday yesterday  and ahead of the U.S. holiday on Monday.

In the news, the Brazilian central bank released the notes from its  last monetary policy meeting in which it raised the key Selic rate to  19.75%.

The bank said that near-term inflation targets are still under  threat even though targets remain safe beyond the 12-month horizon. 

Officials also left open the possibility of higher rates down the road, even  amid expectations that inflationary pressures will begin to subside.

Also, traders are worried about the ongoing corruption investigations  that are gripping the administration.

President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da  Silva's government failed to stop Congress from opening an inquiry into  allegations of corruption at state-run firms, which could stall progress  on economic reforms.

In research, a major brokerage house cut its rating on CVRD to "peer  perform" from "outperform," saying that iron ore prices may drop in 2006.

Also, regional steel companies were active after another investment  bank said that although the sector has been hit by fears that rising  Chinese steel output will hurt prices, China still continues to import more  finished steel than it exports.

Turning to Mexico, the market pulled back modestly, amid a quiet  session on Wall Street ahead of the long holiday weekend.

In the news, the  Bank of Mexico left its monetary policy unchanged, while continuing to  link local rates to monetary conditions in the U.S. The move was widely  expected as domestic inflationary pressures have begun to wane.

In corporate news, shares of Cintra continued to surge after the  company said late yesterday that it will begin accepting offers in June for  the airlines it manages.

The state-run company hopes to sell its  controlling stakes in AeroMexico and Mexicana. Foreign investors wishing to  participate in the sale must align themselves with local investors.

Meanwhile, Cemex said that shareholders taking dividends in the form of  stock will receive one new CPO share for every 25.6 held and the new  shares will be priced 20% below Thursday's average share price.

Argentine equities rose modestly, as investors continue to await the  finalization of the government's US$ 103 billion debt restructuring. 

Although the restructuring has the green light to proceed, many investors  are waiting to get back into the market after the deal is final and no  more delays can emerge. Steel shares were active, following the positive  research call on the group.

Thomson Financial Corporate Group - www.thomsonfinancial.com

PRNewswire

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