May 25, 2018 / 4:55 PM / a year ago

EMERGING MARKETS-Brazilian equities down amid crippling truckers' strike

    SAO PAULO, May 25 (Reuters) - Brazil's Bovespa equities
index fell over half a percent on Friday, as a truckers'
protest entered its fifth day, hobbling a wide range of
industries from aviation to agribusiness.
    Negotiators for several truckers groups protesting high fuel
prices had agreed on Thursday to suspend a nationwide highway
blockade after the government vowed to subsidize and stabilize
diesel prices, which may cost the state some 5 billion reais
($1.37 billion) this year.
    But adhesion to the agreement has been spotty at best, with
police saying on Friday that there were still blockades in 24 of
the nation's 26 states, including 74 just in the state of Rio
Grande do Sul, a key trade route with Argentina. 
    The key automaking sector ground to a halt on Friday, as did
Santos, Latin America's largest port, while grocers' aisles went
understocked and long queues formed outside gas stations.

    In the early afternoon, the federal government authorized
the military to clear highways by force, while Sao Paulo, South
America's largest city, declared a state of emergency.

    "Everyone is focused on the truckers," said a Rio de
Janeiro-based trader. "The government has little or no
negotiating room."
    The Bovespa had fallen 0.6 percent by the afternoon. 
    That fall would have been worse if it were not for a 2.1
percent rise by state-run oil major Petroleo Brasileiro SA
, whose shares had previously tanked after the company
cut diesel prices 10 percent, presumably to assuage truckers. 
    The announcement of subsidies by the government on Thursday
made clear that the state, not Petrobras alone, would bear the
brunt of the losses.
    Chilean equities posted the biggest gains across the region
on Friday, after some heavily weighted stocks bounced back from
a tough Thursday.
    That included lithium producer SQM and related
holding company Sociedad de Inversiones Oro Blanco SA,
which climbed 2 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively. Latam
Airlines Group SA, Latin America's largest airline,
climbed 2.4 percent after posting a decline on Thursday as the
Brazilian truckers' protest caused cancellations.
    Chile's IPSA equities index had climbed 0.86 percent
by mid-day.
Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1610 GMT:
 Stock indexes                           daily %     YTD %
                             Latest       change    change
 MSCI Emerging Markets         1138.39      0.29     -2.02
 MSCI LatAm                    2680.76     -0.02     -5.19
 Brazil Bovespa               79640.81      -0.6      4.24
 Mexico IPC                   45454.44      0.05     -7.90
 Chile IPSA                    5625.24      0.86      1.09
 Chile IGPA                   28398.53      0.82      1.49
 Argentina MerVal             29664.90     -1.88     -1.33
 Colombia IGBC                12023.16      -0.8      5.74
 Venezuela IBC                28317.19      3.96   2141.81
 Currencies                              daily %     YTD %
                                          change    change
 Brazil real                    3.6584     -0.30     -9.43
 Mexico peso                   19.5340      0.24      0.84
 Chile peso                     624.51      0.09     -1.58
 Colombia peso                  2884.2     -1.12      3.39
 Peru sol                         3.27     -0.12     -1.01
 Argentina peso                24.5750     -0.35    -24.31
 Argentina peso                   25.5     -0.39    -24.59
 (Reporting by Gram Slattery; additional reporting by Paula
Arend Laier
Editing by Phil Berlowitz)
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