By Shreyashi Sanyal and Ambar Warrick
July 15 (Reuters) - Brazilian stocks hit a more than four-month high on Wednesday as signs of progress in developing a coronavirus vaccine invited more buying into risk-driven assets, even as COVID-19 cases piled.
The Bovespa stock index .BVSP rose about 1% to its highest level since early March, propped up by financial and energy stocks.
Most Latin American bourses gained after Moderna Inc MRNA.O flagged positive data from its trials for a COVID-19 vaccine, while reports of potential positive news on initial trials of the University of Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine also helped.
"Hope is sky high that a vaccine will be in place by the end of the year and that is driving the reopening trade again," Edward Moya, senior market analyst for the Americas at OANDA, wrote in a note.
Chilean stocks .SPIPSA bucked the trend, falling 3% on protests in support of a proposal to allow Chileans to withdraw part of their pensions during the COVID-19 crisis. The bill was approved by lawmakers, with a Senate vote to follow soon.
Markets also awaited a central bank decision on its benchmark lending rate, which is expected to remain unchanged, after a series of successive cuts earlier in the year due to economic stress from the pandemic.
"We expect the monetary policy committee to keep the policy rate at the 0.50% effective lower bound and continue to signal the maintenance of the current stance for a prolonged period," Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a note.
The Chilean peso CLP= edged up against the dollar, while most other currencies in the region marked small moves as optimism over a vaccine was undercut by a continued spike in coronavirus cases in the continent.
A United Nations agency said in a report issued on Wednesday the pandemic will swell the ranks of the poor and unemployed in Latin America and the Caribbean and drag the region's economic output down by 9.1%.
A Reuters poll also showed a historic recession in Latin America will likely drag on before Brazil, the region's No. 1 economy, starts fixing a dire budget shortfall that tops the list of threats along with the coronavirus pandemic.
Currencies of oil exporters Mexico MXN= and Colombia COP=edged higher on rising crude prices, even as geopolitical tensions between the United States and China flared. O/R
Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies:
Daily % change
MSCI Emerging Markets .MSCIEF
MSCI LatAm .MILA00000PUS
Brazil Bovespa .BVSP
Mexico IPC .MXX
Chile IPSA .SPIPSA
Argentina MerVal .MERV
Colombia COLCAP .COLCAP
Daily % change
Brazil real BRBY
Mexico peso MXN=D2
Chile peso CLP=CL
Colombia peso COP=
Peru sol PEN=PE
Argentina peso (interbank) ARS=RASL
(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru Editing by Alistair Bell and Richard Chang)
((Shreyashi.Sanyal@thomsonreuters.com; +1 646 223 8780; +91 961 144 3740; Twitter: https://twitter.com/s_shreyashi;))
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