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Peru's Kuczynski quits; Brazil lowers Selic rate

* Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned on March 21 amid vote-buying allegations ahead of an impeachment vote supposedly scheduled today, BBC News reported. Kuczynski's First Vice President Martin Vizcarra will be sworn in as president on March 23, to serve Kucyznski's unexpired term until 2021, Bloomberg News reported. Peruvian prosecutors, meanwhile, asked a court to bar Kuczynski from leaving the country, pending investigation to the president's links to Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, Reuters reported.

* Hours before Kuczynski's resignation, Fitch Ratings affirmed Peru's long-term foreign currency issuer default rating at BBB+ with a stable outlook. The country's ratings incorporate its strong public and external balance sheets and its credible and consistent macro policies, which balance vulnerabilities from its high commodity dependence, financial dollarization and low government revenue base, among other factors. The rating agency also said it expects macroeconomic policy continuity amid political uncertainties.

* The Copom, the Brazilian central bank's monetary policy committee, unanimously lowered the benchmark rate to 6.50% from 6.75%, citing inflation expectations and the stage of its monetary easing. "Regarding the next meeting, at this time the Copom views an additional moderate monetary easing as appropriate," the central bank said. However, they added, "this view regarding the next Copom meeting might change in favor of the interruption of the monetary easing process, if risk mitigation proves unnecessary.

MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA

* An internal control body of Mexico's Issste state workers' social security fund has opened an audit into an investment of more than $20 million into construction firm ICA, Reuters reported. PensionIssste stands to lose most of the investment as ICA is working on a debt restructuring.

* Mexico's central bank launched a public consultation on plans to amend regulations regarding the charges and exchange rates used by credit and debit card issuers for payments and cash withdrawals in foreign currency, El Economista reported. The changes are aimed at ensuring greater clarity for card users.

* Banco Santander (México) SA Institución de Banca Múltiple said it had formed an alliance with convenience store chain Circle K, Tiendas Extra and K to use its more than 1,100 branches to function as banking correspondent points, El Economista reported.

* Mexico's CNBV banking and securities commission is working on new anti-corruption guidelines for financial institutions as part of their controls on money laundering and financial terrorism, El Economista reported. José Luis Ortiz Guzmán, the CNBV's deputy general director of preventive operations, said the guidelines on corruption risks would be issued in the second quarter.

* Fitch Ratings revised the outlook on Guatemala's Banco de los Trabajadores to positive from stable, reflecting Fitch's belief that the bank's overall risk profile has been improved due to its stronger capital base, as well as recent measures to strengthen its corporate governance and risk management framework.

BRAZIL

* Fitch lowered Bradesco Seguros SA's issuer default ratings to BB, with a stable outlook, from BB+, with a negative outlook, reflecting a similar action on the parent. Fitch also lowered Sul América SA's long-term issuer default rating to B+, with a stable outlook, from BB-, with a negative outlook, due to a downgrade on Brazil's ratings.

* Brazilian insurance broker Wiz Soluções e Corretagem de Seguros SA said it had entered into talks with Caixa Seguridade Participações S.A. and French insurer CNP Assurances SA to discuss a possible new distribution agreement following the renegotiation of the partnership accord between Caixa and CNP last year, Valor Econômico reported.

* Loan disbursements by Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social fell 32% in the first two months of 2018 year-over-year to 6.85 billion reais, Reuters reported. This is the fifth consecutive year of reduced lending at the development bank for January and February.

* Brazilian credit card fintech Nubank has asked the country's competition watchdog to investigate Itaú Unibanco Holding SA, Banco Bradesco SA, Banco Santander (Brasil) SA, Caixa Econômica Federal and Banco do Brasil SA, accusing them of harming competition in the card-issuing market, Valor Econômico reported.

ANDEAN

* A bill seeking to increase regulation over corporate mergers and acquisitions in Peru has been presented to Congress, El Comercio reported. The draft legislation, which is opposed by business associations, would establish prior controls on M&A transactions for companies with joint annual sales of around 480 million Peruvian soles.

* Scotiabank Perú SAA said Gianfranco Maximo Dante Castagnola Zúñiga and Miguel Uccelli Labarthe have both been appointed as board chairman and vice chairman, respectively, according to a securities filing.

SOUTHERN CONE

* Chile's central bank expects the country's economy to grow between 3.0% and 4.0% in 2018, raising its forecast from a previous estimate of 2.5% and 3.5%. "The growth of activity has increased in recent months, particularly in the nonmining sectors, which recovered dynamism in the second half of 2017, after a slow start to the year," the central bank said in a monetary policy report.

* Paraguay's central bank on March 21 maintained its monetary policy interest rate at 5.25%. Internationally, advanced countries have consolidated economic recovery while volatility in the financial markets has been mitigated, while domestically, short-term economic indicators remain favorable, and inflation data also continues to converge with the central bank's target.

* Argentine statistics institute Indec said GDP grew 2.9% in 2017 from 2016, while fourth-quarter growth was up 3.9% from the year-ago period, Reuters reported.

* Argentina's Senate voted to make changes to the capital markets reform bill, sending the legislation back to the lower house for final approval, Clarín reported. The bill, opposed by allies of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, aims to boost financing for small and medium-sized companies and bolster activity in the local capital market.

* The percentage of small and medium-sized Uruguayan companies that use banking services rose to 72% in 2017, up 15 percentage points from the previous survey in 2012, El Observador reported, citing a study by the Industry Ministry. The survey also showed 39% of companies had had trouble securing bank loans, though 27% had borrowed in the last three years.

* Manuel Olivares, outgoing general manager of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria Chile SA, said shareholders would likely propose changes to the management team of car financing firm FORUM Servicios Financieros SA, Pulso reported. Olivares, who is also chairman at Forum, said "there will be changes soon." However, he added that while Forum is not up for sale, there are always potential buyers, Diario Financiero reported.

PAN LATIN AMERICA

* U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will host an April meeting with officials from the European Union, Canada, the U.K. and Latin American countries to discuss possible further actions on Venezuela, Bloomberg News reported.

* Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. hired Sandy Salgado as head of the company's Latin American corporate banking division, replacing John Koike, who has been filling the position ad interim.

* Moody's has a stable outlook for insurance brokers this 2018, based on good product demand, low capital requirements, significant variable costs and health EBITDA margins and cash flows. The rating agency forecasts brokers will see their revenues grow by low-to-mid-single digits in 2018.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

* Asia-Pacific: China names head of new financial regulator; Japan insurers to merge pension ops

* Middle East & Africa: 2 Abu Dhabi funds merging; South Africa, Nigeria sit out African free trade pact

* Europe: Deutsche Bank slides; UBS, New York reach settlement; SocGen sets CET1 target

S&P Global Market Intelligence provides links to external sites where these offer further, relevant information to our readers. While we ensure that such links are functional at the time of publication, we are not responsible in instances where those links are unavailable later.

Helen Popper contributed to this article.

The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 8:00 a.m. São Paulo time, and scans news sources published in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Some external links may require a subscription.