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Chilean Peso Beats Region as Euro and Copper Gain, Oil Falls

Chile’s peso appreciated more than other major Latin American currencies as higher copper prices and lower energy costs boosted the country’s terms of trade.

The peso gained for the first time this week, climbing 0.8 percent to 473.25 per U.S. dollar from 476.83 yesterday.

Copper rose in New York as oil prices fell after an offer to mediate in Libya’s civil conflict. The metal is Chile’s biggest export, while oil and gasoline are its biggest imports.

The peso gained “on stronger terms of trade and the euro,” said Cesar Perez, an economist at Celfin Capital SA in Santiago. “The most important thing was the euro, which moved to $1.39 as the jobless claims came out. The euro is the biggest benchmark traders use to indicate the movement of the peso against the dollar because it represents the value of a whole continent against the dollar.”

Applications for jobless benefits in the U.S. fell 20,000 to 368,000 in the week ended Feb. 26. Oil prices declined after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez offered to mediate in Libya’s civil conflict.

The euro surged as European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet called for vigilance on inflation, even as the U.S. data boosted global growth prospects.

West Texas Crude for April delivery slid 0.8 percent to $101.42 a barrel. Turmoil in the North African country has driven up the price of oil by 16 percent since Feb. 15, the day before protests started in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

Chile’s central bank said it bought $50 million today at an average of 474.2 pesos per U.S. dollar as part of a $12 billion plan to stem the peso’s gains.

The central bank sold 26.4 billion ($55.8 million) of 10-year bonds today at a yield of 6.71 percent, it said today on its website. The bank sold similar bonds on Feb. 15 at a yield of 6.9 percent.

It also sold $137 million of five-year inflation-linked bonds at 2.45 percent, the lowest since April 2009. The bonds were denominated in unidades de fomento, the country’s inflation-linked accounting unit.

The bank had planned to sell 22 billion pesos of 10-year bonds and $114 million of inflation bonds.

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