* Argentina's GDP shrank 1.7% year over year in the third quarter of 2019, according to preliminary data published by statistics agency Indec, marking the country's fifth consecutive quarter without growth. Private and public consumption were down 4.9% and 0.9%, respectively. The agriculture, livestock, hunting and forestry sector posted the largest growth at 12.2%. Meanwhile, central bank chief Miguel Ángel Pesce said he expects the country to return to growth next year due to government incentives for consumer spending, Clarín reported.
* Argentina's new government is considering revamping Banco de Inversión y Comercio Exterior SA into a development bank, primarily focused on soft loans for companies' productive endeavors, La Nación reported. President Alberto Fernández's economic team will reportedly put new capital into the bank sourced from extra revenue collected from higher import tariffs.
MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA
* Panama's GDP grew 2.9% yearly in the third quarter, slower than the 3.6% expansion in the same period in 2018, El Capital Financiero reported, citing data from the country's statistics institute.
* Former Guatemalan Economy Minister Sergio de la Torre is set to return to the central bank's monetary policy board as an alternate director in place of Mariano Ventura, who will assume the board's leadership from next month, El Periodico reported. Ventura was appointed to complete the term of Jorge Luis Agüero.
* Moody's expects Banco do Brasil SA's profitability will be able to withstand macro and competitive pressure over the next 12 months as it tries to align its operations with the Brazilian government's aim to cut down state-run banks' share in the financial system. Moody's also believes the bank's profitability can resist downside pressure associated through high-return consumer loans and credit to small and midsize companies, among others.
* The Brazilian central bank's monetary board said inflation could go up as economic activity indicators have been positive, Reuters reported, citing minutes from the central bank's recent monetary policy meeting. The board also said higher meat prices could also drive inflation upward.
* Brazilian asset management firm Vitreo Gestao de Recursos Ltda has been given the go-ahead to launch an investment platform, Valor Econômico reported.
* Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social sold its entire stake in meat packer Marfrig for about 2.1 billion reais in a follow-on share offering, Valor Econômico reported.
* B3 SA - Brasil Bolsa Balcão postponed plans to issue debt in the local market to the first quarter of 2020 from the end of 2019, Valor Econômico reported, citing CFO Daniel Sonder. He said the company moved to delay the sale because "it was not the best time."
* Five leading Brazilian banks that are creditors of scandal-plagued construction firm Odebrecht SA are in final talks to reach a deal over the company's 50.1% stake in petrochemical firm Braskem SA, O Estado de S. Paulo reported. The stake was awarded to the banks as guarantees on loans granted to Odebrecht, but the creditors have reportedly agreed to let the conglomerate keep the shares for three years.
* Brazil's Senate approved on Dec. 17 a government decree to transfer control of the Coaf anti-money laundering watchdog to the central bank, Folha de S. Paulo reported. Coaf was previously under the control of the economy ministry.
* Peru's housing ministry and the SBS banking regulator are implementing measures that will allow another financial entity to manage the credit portfolio of subsidized Fondo MIVIVIENDA SA housing loans that were held by defunct financing company Financiera TFC SA, El Comercio reported. The SBS ordered Financiera TFC earlier in December to stop operating due to inadequate solvency. Housing Minister Rodolfo Yáñez said TFC had channeled 220.8 million soles in FMV loans to some 5,500 borrowers.
* Argentine Finance Minister Martin Guzman said the government will send a bill to Congress to fund new social security expenditures, including setting tighter currency controls and new taxes, such as a 30% tax on all purchases made by Argentines abroad and also on purchases of U.S. dollars in the local market. Guzman also announced a freeze on utility rates, and a 180-day period for companies to modify their rate schemes.
* Argentina's government plans to revive the concept of "freely available reserves" in order to borrow $4.57 billion from the central bank to service public debt, La Nación reported. The measure is contained in a package of proposals aimed at reviving the economy and improving the government's fiscal position. The resources would be transferred to the Treasury through the issue of a 10-year Lete bond in dollars.
* Chile's Banco de Credito e Inversiones SA has accused the country's FNE economic prosecutor's office of not being objective in a dispute over mortgage insurance, at the same time denying it had a dominant position in the market, Diario Financiero reported. The FNE wants the bank to be fined an equivalent of US$3 million for allegedly concealing information about the cheapest mortgage insurance products from tens of thousands of customers.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
* Middle East & Africa: Tel Aviv bourse looking to boost liquidity; Morocco's central bank holds rate
* Europe: Crédit Agricole sees Q4 profit hit; UniCredit exits Pekao; BBVA eyes job cuts
Helen Popper contributed to this article.
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