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Chile most competitive in LatAm; Banco Agromercantil de Guatemala head leaving

* Chile is Latin America's most competitive country followed by Mexico and Uruguay, Diario Financiero reported, citing the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2018 edition. Strong macroeconomic fundamentals and developed capital markets led Chile to be ranked 33rd in the list, while Mexico trailed in 46th position and Uruguay in 53rd place. Venezuela and Haiti were at the bottom of the regional ranking, placed 127th and 138th, respectively.

* Christian Roberto Schneider Will has resigned as general manager of Banco Agromercantil de Guatemala SA and other Guatemalan operations belonging to Bancolombia SA, effective Dec. 31, 2018, the company said in a statement.

MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA

* The continuing depreciation of the Costa Rican colón is credit negative for the country's banks, as it will aggravate asset risks on U.S. dollar-denominated loans, Moody's said. About 50% of the loans in the country are dollar-denominated, with local-currency earners holding about 70% of these loans.

* The Inter-American Development Bank is preparing some $750 million in credit lines for infrastructure and other projects in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, El Periódico reported.

* Panama's National Assembly has approved new legislation for multinational companies setting up headquarters in the country, El Capital Financiero reported. The reforms are aimed at bringing local laws into line with global standards, boosting competitiveness and attracting more foreign investment.

* Panama's financial institutions are investing the most in Latin America on developing banking and financial technology, followed by their counterparts in Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia, La República reported, citing research by software company Cooperative Open Banking Information System. It said Panama's financial system allocated 17.2% of its budget to technology, significantly higher than in other countries.

* S&P Global Ratings placed Banca Mifel SA's long-term BB global and mxA Mexican national scale issuer credit ratings on CreditWatch with positive implications after the bank's recent announcement of its planned IPO.

* Austerity plans announced by Mexico's incoming government, which include cutting insurance premiums for civil servants, could have a dramatic impact on the finances of insurer MetLife México SA, El Economista reported, citing Mario di Costanzo, president of the Condusef financial consumers' defense commission. He said planned savings would reduce the company's technical reserves by about 75 billion pesos, between 70% and 75% of the total.

BRAZIL

* Banco Mercantil do Brasil SA's offer to repurchase up to $50 million of its outstanding 2020 subordinated notes does not materially affect its capitalization ratios, according to S&P Global Ratings. The rating agency expects the bank to maintain a Basel III index above 15.0%, which is above the regulatory minimum, shortly after the repurchase.

* Brazil's leading presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, said if he is elected, the country's central bank will remain independent in determining interest rates, Reuters reported.

* Federal police in Brazil asked the Supreme Court to prosecute President Michel Temer and seize his assets over graft allegations, Reuters reported, citing a copy of the report produced by the police. The president is immune from suit while in office, but the court can decide to remove his immunity.

* The president of Brazil's Febraban banking industry federation, Murilo Portugal, has said increased controls over cash transactions should be a priority for the country as authorities work to tackle money laundering, Valor Econômico reported. A central bank survey showed 96% of Brazilians still pay using cash.

ANDEAN

* Venezuelan Economy Vice President Tareck El Aissami said the country plans to open bank accounts in Asia and Europe to conduct hard currency transactions with the aim of bypassing U.S. sanctions, Reuters reported.

* Peru's SBS banking industry supervisor has issued new regulations aimed at improving security and efficiency for customers signing up for financial products and services via digital channels, El Comercio reported. The updated regulations enshrine clients' rights to request a paper contract and include new forms of communication between banks and customers such as free electronic statements.

SOUTHERN CONE

* Argentine consumer watchdog ADUC filed a class-action lawsuit against Banco Itaú Argentina SA saying the bank sent some consumer communications electronically without providing options for alternative versions. The bank said it is analyzing the matter and that an unfavorable situation like this will not materially affect its operations.

* Aeris Invest Sàrl, an investment firm belonging to Chilean billionaire Andrónico Luksic, filed a complaint Oct. 5 with the European Court of Justice to overturn a decision by resolution authorities not to publish a final valuation report on failed Spanish lender Banco Popular Español SA after European authorities wound down the bank and sold it to Banco Santander SA for €1 on June 7, 2017.

* The monetary policy board of Chile's central bank meets today with the market divided over the timing of rate hikes, La Tercera reported. It said most analysts expected the central bank to raise the benchmark TPM rate between now and December, though some say an increase is not necessary.

* Chilean banks are continuing to ease mortgage credit conditions amid signs of a renewed real estate boom, La Tercera reported, citing a third-quarter credit survey by the central bank. According to the poll, 17% of banks had maintained more flexible lending criteria in the third quarter, unchanged from the previous three-month period. For consumer credit, the proportion of banks reporting less demanding conditions rose to 15% from 0%.

PAN LATIN AMERICA

* A record 85% fund managers said they think the global market is in a late cycle while another 38% said they expect the global growth rate to decelerate, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch October Fund Manager Survey. The asset managers are beginning to shift their portfolios toward less risky assets.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

* Asia-Pacific: Australia to probe financial firms; Nomura to settle US securities claims

* Middle East & Africa: US unveils additional Iran sanctions; top European bankers shun Saudi conference

* Europe: Nordea faces money laundering claims; Wells Fargo plans EU trading hub in Paris

Helen Popper contributed to this article.

This S&P Global Market Intelligence news article may contain information about credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings, a separately managed division of S&P Global. Descriptions in this news article were not prepared by S&P Global Ratings. The original S&P Global Ratings document referred to in this news brief can be found in the sources section.

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