By Carla Mozee
Brazilian and Mexican stocks rose Wednesday, finding support from data that show the region's largest economies remain on their respective paths of expansion.
In Brazil, retail sales in March soared by a stronger-than-expected rate of 15.7% from the year-ago period. Separately, banking giant Itau Unibanco lifted its 2010 growth outlook for the country, saying it sees a "Chinese-like rate of growth" fueled by improvement in economies worldwide.
Meanwhile, Mexican industrial production for March surpassed expectations by rising 7.6% from the same month last year. Analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had expected a year-over-year rise of 5.8%.
Brazil's Bovespa equity index rose 1.2% to 65, 223.63 in a broad-based advance led by home builders, finance, utility and steel stocks.
Overall gains were led by a 7.5% jump in shares of exchange operator BM&F Bovespa after the company late Tuesday said its first-quarter net income rose 25% to 282.6 million reals ($159.6 million), aided by higher trading volume. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected 262.7 million reals in profit.
Also higher were shares of Vivo Participacoes (VIV), up 4%. They extended gains from Tuesday's session after Spain's Telefonica (TEF) offered to buy out Portugal Telecom's 50% stake in Brazil's largest mobile-services operator. Portugal Telecom's (PT) board rejected the offer from its partner in the Vivo joint venture.
Mexico's IPC rose 0.8% to 32,379.63 as the index also saw broad-based gains. Advancers included cement maker Cemex (CX), up 3.7%, and banking firm Inbursa , up 4.3%. Engineering and construction firm Empresas ICA (ICA) rose 0.8%, paring gains.
Decliners included fixed-line giant Telmex (TMX), whose shares slipped 0.2%, and telecom firm Axtel, off 2.3%.
Mexico's equity index moved in line with U.S. stocks, as investors on Wall Street also appeared to have focused on domestic economic and financial developments. U.S. stocks rose after the Commerce Department estimated that U.S. exports and imports in March hit their highest levels since October 2008. .
Stocks moved higher after the Treasury auction of $24 billion in 10-year notes drew solid demand. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) closed up 149 points at 10,896.91. The S&P 500 Index (SPX) climbed 1.4%.
Equity markets in Latin America and Wall Street have been volatile in recent sessions on concerns that Greece's debt troubles will spread to other euro-zone nations. The European Union and the International Monetary Fund this week crafted a nearly $1 trillion bailout deal for vulnerable euro-zone countries, but worries persist.
Itau ups GDP forecast for Brazil
Despite the recent turmoil in the global financial markets, Itau Unibanco on Wednesday lifted its estimate for 2010 growth in world gross domestic product to 4.5%, up from its previous projection of 4.2%. Improvement in the U.S. and China are the main drivers behind the upcoming expansion, wrote Itau's chief economist Ilan Goldfajn and economist Giovanna Siniscalchi in a note to clients.
Itau said Brazil will be a standout this year as its GDP is forecast to grow by 7.5%, fueled by fiscal, monetary and credit measures aimed at stimulating domestic demand. Brazil's GDP contracted 0.2% last year as it grappled with the global downturn.
First-quarter expansion should be close to 3% compared with the same quarter in 2009, which, annualized, would correspond to "more than 12% - a Chinese-like rate of growth," the economists wrote.
"Even if a natural deceleration of growth occurs over the coming quarters, yearly growth should exceed the 6.5% previous estimated."
But Itau also raised its inflation forecast to reflect "overheating" in the economy, even at a time when monetary policy is becoming more restrictive. The key IPCA inflation index should reach 5.5%. Itau previously expected an increase to 5.3%. The central bank's inflation target stands at 4.5%.