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LATIN AMERICAN MARKETS: Latin American Stocks Fall As Growth Fears Linger

By Carla Mozee Mexican stocks were among those in major Latin American markets that dropped Monday, further cementing losses toward the end of a month dogged by a slew of U.S. reports that heightened worries about economic deceleration. Mexico's IPC index fell 1.2% to 31,382.67, with just four of the 35 stocks on the index posting gains. Among volume leaders, shares of Wal-Mart de Mexico (WMMVY) slumped 1.3% and cement maker Cemex (CX) fell 1.2% and America Movil (AMX) lost 1.3%. Argentina's Merval fell 1.8% to 2,307.20 and Brazil's Bovespa ended 2% lower at 64,260.79. Shares of oil giant Petrobras (PBR) slid 4.2% as the government appeared to move closer to issuing an oil-rights valuation related to a massive sale of Petrobras shares. Also lower were interest-rate sensitive finance and home builders after a key inflation index rose by more than expected this month. The reading arrived ahead of the central bank's interest-rate decision due late Wednesday. Shares of state-run Banco do Brasil fell 2% and Itau Unibanco (ITUB) lost 1.2%. Rossi Residencial gave up 3% and Gafisa (GFA) slumped 2.8%. U.S. economy drag On Wall Street, stocks fell following a mixed report on personal income and spending in July, which also showed the savings rate for U.S. households fell to the lowest level in three months. "While income is likely to get a temporary boost from extended [unemployment insurance] benefits in August, a sustained pickup requires stronger job growth--and that still seems to be on the horizon," wrote economist Sal Guatieri at BMO Capital Markets. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 Index (SPX) fell 1.5%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) fell 141 points to 10,009. Investors on Friday will get fresh figures outlining the state of the already fragile U.S. labor market. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expect that just 49,000 private-sector jobs were created this month after factoring out the layoff of temporary Census workers. Also, the jobless rate could rise to 9.6% from 9.5%. Most Latin American stocks last week were hurt in part after a series of weak reports from the world's largest economy, including a plunge in sales of existing and new homes and sluggish orders for durable goods. Tough August The declines have helped pushed Mexico's key index down nearly 3% for August ahead of the end of the month on Tuesday. Mexico's economy is highly exposed to conditions in the U.S. as Mexico sends about 80% of its exports to the U.S. The Bovespa was facing a loss of nearly 5% this month. Argentina's Merval is down more than 3%. But Chile's IPSA is up nearly 3% for the month, outpacing its regional rivals thanks to a number of record-high closes. On Monday, Chile's IPSA rose 0.2% to 4,487. 45 after the Chilean government said industrial production in July rose 3.3% from the year-ago period, better than the market consensus for an increase of 3%. Also, retail sales climbed 18.5% from the year-ago period. "Overall the data continued to display strength, suggesting that the economy entered Q3 on a very solid footing and supporting our bearish rates/bullish [Chilean peso] views," wrote Jimena Zuniga, an economist with the Barclays Capital emerging-markets research team. In other action market action, shares of Mexican airport operators Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (PAC) fell 2.4% and Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (ASR) lost 3% in Mexico City in the wake of late Friday's announcement that financially strapped Mexicana, Mexico's oldest and largest airline by passenger traffic, ceased operations indefinitely. Grupo Mexicana, the parent of Mexicana, also suspended operations for its regional carriers Click and Link. Citigroup on Monday downgraded its rating on Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico, also known as GAP, to hold from buy and cut its 12-month price target on the U.S.-listed shares to $34 from $43. Analyst Stephen Trent said GAP is "great company," but it's facing too many obstacles. While "underlying traffic growth (to now) has been good, along with solid operations and cash flow generation, a controlling shareholders' messy dispute has now been compounded by a Mexicana financial situation that turned out to have been worse than we had previously anticipated," wrote Trent.

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