Investors Cash Their Chips and Send Brazilian Stocks Down

Latin American stocks were mixed, with Brazilian and Argentine shares falling on profit taking, while upbeat local earnings news lifted Mexican issues.

Brazil’s Bovespa Index shed 96.82 points, or 0.24%. Mexico’s benchmark Bolsa Index rose 79.29 points, or 0.38%, while Argentina’s Merval Index tumbled 54.21 points, or 2.84%.

Brazilian shares dipped, as investors cashed in some of yesterday’s robust gains while continuing to assess the impact of Bolivia’s decision Monday to nationalize natural gas supplies.

Investors have largely shrugged off the news amid Bolivian assurances that gas supplies to Brazil would be maintained. Brazil receives more than 50% of its natural gas supplies from Bolivia.

Petrobras said today that while it recognizes Bolivia’s "sovereign right" to nationalize gas reserves, it believes that "conditions exist for Brazil to negotiate with Bolivia (over natural gas and other energy issues)." "We believe that existing contracts protect the interests of Petrobras," the company said.

In other news, long steel maker Gerdau said its first-quarter net profit rose 2.7% from a year earlier to 832.5 million reais, on rising domestic demand resulting from improved civil construction activity.

Elsewhere, Mexican shares climbed to their third straight record high, helped by upbeat earnings news from America Movil. The wireless carrier said its first-quarter net profit more than doubled to 9.95 billion pesos from 4.65 billion pesos a year earlier, on strong subscriber growth.

Revenue grew 26% to 50.72 billion pesos. Analysts had expected a net profit of 5.74 billion pesos on revenue of 52.2 billion pesos. The company also raised its 2006 new subscriber target.

Meanwhile, copper miner Grupo Mexico said its first-quarter net profit rose 32% to US$ 331.0 million, as sales rose 7% to $1.33 billion, on higher metal prices. In addition, the company cautioned that it is considering the closure of its third-largest zinc mine, where strikers have been blocking access for the past two months.

In research, a major investment bank downgraded beverage company Femsa to "equalweight" from "overweight," citing valuation.

On the political front, a poll released by Reforma newspaper showed ruling-party candidate Felipe Calderon with his first major lead over leftist rival Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico’s presidential race.

Argentine issues sank, as investors took profits after Merval heavyweight, Tenaris, released robust first-quarter earnings figures, as expected.

Thomson Financial – www.thomsonfinancial.com

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