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Latin America Currencies Continue to Slip

Latin America Currencies Continue to Slip

Political developments throughout Latin America have made investors increasingly skittish on the region.

Latin American currencies continued a recent slide Thursday, pressured by mounting political uncertainty throughout the region.

The Chilean peso was down 1% against the dollar at a fresh low in late afternoon New York trading, as antigovernment protests in the South American country continued. The currency has lost nearly 15% against the dollar over the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, the Colombian peso was down 0.7% and approaching its own record low. Other Latin American currencies—including the Uruguayan peso and Brazilian real—were also lower, extending the losses they have notched in recent months.

Political developments throughout Latin America have made investors increasingly skittish on the region, even as signs of progress in U.S.-China trade talks have fueled appetite for emerging-market assets.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera’s government said earlier this week it would move forward with a plan to rewrite Chile’s market-friendly, dictatorship-era constitution and replace it with one providing a new social pact, although enacting a new constitution would likely take many months. The peso recently traded at around 800 to the dollar, from around 630 a year ago.

In Brazil, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was released from jail pending appeals last Friday, cutting short a long corruption sentence that prevented him from contesting the last presidential election. Brazil’s real is off 10% over the last 12 months.

Investors are also concerned that Argentina’s new Peronist government, voted into power last month, will turn its back on policies Wall Street had supported.

In Bolivia, an opposition lawmaker declared herself the new head of state following the resignation of President Evo Morales, who arrived Tuesday in Mexico after being granted asylum.

“These political risks are probably not going away anytime soon,” said Win Thin, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman. “Each of these is idiosyncratic, but the fact that it all seems to be happening at the same time makes investors uneasy.”

The WSJ Dollar Index was recently down 0.1% at 90.99 as the U.S. currency declined against the euro and yen.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note settled at 1.815%, from 1.870% on Wednesday.

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