* Moody's said it is holding a stable outlook for Latin American sovereign creditworthiness in 2019, with moderately higher economic growth than 2018, despite rising political risks following the elections in Mexico and Brazil. In making its outlook, the rating agency also highlighted "improved debt structures that mitigate liquidity risks, and moderate balance-of-payments risks."
* Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has tapped Jonathan Ernest Heath Constable and Gerardo Esquivel Hernández to serve on the board of governors at Banco de México, the country's central bank. The two appointments would complete the central bank's board of governors.
MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA
* Fitch Ratings expects El Salvador to temper financing and fiscal risks in 2019 following the passage of its yearly budget and the approval of an external issuance that will finance an $800 million Eurobond.
* Mexican banks plan to invest more than 80 billion pesos in the next two years on technology, developing their branch networks and adding new products and services, helping to bring more people into the financial system, El Financiero reported, citing Marcos Martínez Gavica, president of the ABM banking industry association.
* Brazil's strong economic growth, low interest rates and deepening capital markets will benefit B3 SA - Brasil Bolsa Balcão, which is now the leading financial market infrastructure company in Latin America, according to Moody's. About 30 new companies are expected to list in B3 this year, Folha De S.Paulo reported.
* Guggenheim Securities LLC initiated coverage of Brazil-based payments companies Cielo SA and PagSeguro Digital Ltd. with a "neutral" rating. The company did not a price target for the companies but forecasts a 10% year-over-year decline in Cielo's EPS and a growth of 33% in PagSeguro's EPS in 2019.
* The expansion of the loan portfolios of Brazilian credit unions outpaced that of the country's banks during 2018, Diário Comércio Indústria & Serviços reported. It said that while the credit portfolio of the top five banks grew between 7% and 13% through September, those of the two biggest credit unions – Unicred Central Rio de Janeiro / Mato Grosso and Banco Cooperativo Sicredi SA – expanded by 17% and 28% through November year-on-year respectively.
* Brazilian M&A deals totaled 192.4 billion reais during 2018, down 1.76% from the previous year, Diário Comércio Indústria & Serviços reported, citing the latest quarterly Transactional Track Record report produced by LexisNexis and the TozziniFreire law firm. The number of transactions in the year also declined to 1,153 operations from 1,188 in 2017.
* Plans by the new management of Caixa Econômica Federal and Banco do Brasil SA to hold initial public offerings in their asset-management subsidiaries -- Caixa Asset and BB Gestão de Recursos-Distribuidora de Títulos e Valores Mobiliários SA -- have generated doubts in the local financial market, Valor Econômico reported.
* The social security reform proposed by the Brazilian government includes a "capitalization system" which will not only increase internal savings and boost economic growth by at least 3%, but also ensure a better pension system for the upcoming generations, Reuters reported, citing Presidential Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni. The capitalization system will come from individual contributions.
* Venezuelan inflation was 1,698,488.2% in 2018, Agence France-Presse reported, citing data released by the opposition-controlled parliament.
* Lending rates charged by banks fell in Argentina in December, with rates on loans guaranteed by post-dated checks and invoices falling 4.3 percentage points during the month, as demand for credit among local companies dried up, El Cronista reported. It quoted analysts as saying small businesses were reluctant to take on debt due to high costs and sluggish economic activity.
* Argentine stocks should get a $1.30 billion boost from the country's reclassification as an emerging market by MSCI, El Cronista reported, citing a report by JP Morgan. Argentina is expected to have a weighting of 0.36% in MSCI's benchmark emerging market share index.
* Chilean interbank ATM network Redbanc SA said it had fought off an attempted cyberattack in December 2018, La Tercera reported. The company said security protocols were activated, allowing services to continue operating normally.
* Chile's Senate approved a free-trade agreement with Argentina with 34 votes in favor and one against, despite the previous opposition of the agricultural commission, La Tercera reported.
* Chile's TDLC competition court has summoned managers from a dozen local banks to testify in a case brought against them by three cryptocurrency trading companies over the closure of their bank accounts, La Tercera reported. The cryptocurrency companies, which say the account closures crippled their operations, will seek to convince the courts that they are competitors to banks.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
* Asia-Pacific: CITIC Securities in M&A deal; China to launch medium-term lending facility
* Middle East & Africa: Abraaj gets stake in C&I; Al Baraka eyes Asia; Zenith Bank's retail push
Helen Popper contributed to this article.
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