* S&P Global Ratings lowered seven issue ratings on Venezuela's global bonds to D from CC, while affirming its long- and short-term foreign currency sovereign issuer credit ratings on Venezuela at SD/D. The bond downgrades reflect S&P's expectation that Venezuela's government will not make timely coupon payments on these issues given its failure to do so on other foreign currency issues since November 2017.
* U.K.-based Bupa and Spain's Santalucía Seguros have entered the Colombian insurance market by partnering with local firms, El Tiempo reported. Bupa has partnered with Compañía de Seguros Bolívar SA while Santalucía Seguros has reached a deal with the Fundación Social financial development institution. The report added that a new life insurer called EKG Compañía de Seguros de Vida is currently seeking regulatory approval to start operating in Colombia.
MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA
* Unibank SA plans to auction bonds worth up to $1.4 million on Feb. 20. The 180-day securities will carry an interest rate of 3.00% and will be issued as part of the company's $50 million bond program.
* Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray expressed optimism that the NAFTA trade pact will be renegotiated, but warned that Mexico "should be prepared for a future with or without NAFTA," Reuters reported. The next round of talks between the U.S., Canada and Mexico is set to take place later in February.
* Costa Rica's insurance industry grew 15% in 2017 in terms of income from premiums, driven by higher sales of health insurance, life and property protection products, El Financiero reported, citing the Sugese industry regulator. In 2016, the annual expansion rate was 11%.
* Guatemalan banks transferred some 58 million quetzales from inactive bank accounts to the Fopa savings guarantee fund between 2013 and 2017, El Periodico reported, citing the latest central bank figures. Under a 2012 law, funds from bank accounts containing less than the equivalent of $125 that are inactive for 10 years must be sent to the Fopa fund.
* A delay in the start-up of Mexico's new stock exchange Bolsa Institucional de Valores is having a negative impact on the Bolsa Mexicana de Valores SAB de CV, a leading investor in the project, BMV general director José Oriol Bosch Par told El Economista. He acknowledged that the launch has been slower than expected and said "this had a significant cost for the BMV."
* Mexico's state-owned Banco Nacional de Obras y Servicios Públicos SNC placed 10 billion pesos in development bank stock exchange certificates, known as cebures, on the Mexican stock exchange, Reforma reported.
* Brazilian savers who accept a compensation plan with banks over losses incurred as a result of the government's economic plans in the 1980s and 1990s will receive payments through an online platform, Diário Comércio Indústria & Serviços reported. The platform, which will operate for two years, should start disbursing payments in April, Walter Moura, a lawyer at the Idec consumer protection institute, told the publication.
* All of the policymakers at Brazil's central bank agree that ending the bank's rate-cutting cycle would be suitable if the country's economic outlook stays in line with expectations, but they are also open to one more possible rate cut in March, Reuters reported, citing minutes of the bank's latest policy meeting.
* Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he will attend an upcoming summit of Latin American leaders in Lima, Peru, despite not being invited, Reuters reported. Peruvian Prime Minister Mercedes Araoz said Maduro "really needs to understand that in Peru we don't want to receive him."
* Colombia's Asobancaria banking industry association is to set up a financial innovation laboratory to test new technology useful to the sector, Portafolio reported.
* Argentine financial regulator CNV said it is extending an agreement on the interconnection of the negotiation and liquidation systems of the Merval index and Rofex futures exchange. The BYMA stock exchange had earlier terminated the agreement, but the regulator said the final date of the termination would be extended until it can determine the future of the market.
* At a March 9 meeting, Banco de Corrientes SA will propose to shareholders a dividend payment of 280,000 Argentine pesos. The payment will be subject to central bank approval.
* Argentine bank workers' union La Bancaria confirmed a strike for Feb. 19 and Feb. 20 to pressure the government into meeting wage demands, El Cronista reported. The new strike will follow a work stoppage this week that left Argentine banks unable to serve customers for five days during the Carnival festivities. Meanwhile, Banco de la Provincia de Buenos Aires deducted more than 1,500 pesos from the pay packets of thousands of staff members who went on strike in December, Clarín reported.
* Argentina's portfolio of credit to the private sector grew in 2017, reaching 14.7% of GDP – an increase of 2.4 percentage points from the previous year due to strong growth in personal loans, mortgages and corporate lending, El Cronista reported, citing central bank data. Overall, credit increased by 22% in 2017 in real terms, adjusted for inflation.
* Paraguay's Banco para la Comercialización y la Producción SA, a cooperative bank, has launched its first program of subordinated debt issued in dollars, La Nación reported. It sold $5.0 million in seven-year bonds to the Netherlands-based Oikocredit, an international institution promoting cooperative development.
PAN LATIN AMERICA
* Latin American economies will continue to recover in 2018 provided that external conditions remain favorable, S&P Global Ratings said in a report. However, a faster normalization of U.S. monetary policy could drive heightened volatility in financial markets and discourage capital inflows into Latin America.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
* Middle East & Africa: Iran moves to stem rial slide; Ethiopia PM resigns; Egypt central bank rates cut
* Europe: Allianz Q4'17 profit falls 22.3% YOY; AXA eyes Q2 for partial IPO of US biz
S&P Global Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.
Helen Popper contributed to this article.
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