* Brazil’s Mantega denies reports of equities tax
* US jobs data supports Mexico’s IPC
* Brazil Bovespa gains 0.96 pct, Mexico IPC up 0.44 pct
By Asher Levine
SAO PAULO, March 1 (Reuters) - Latin American stocks touched a new 7-month high on Thursday after Brazil’s finance minister quashed reports the country would tax equities purchases by foreigners and encouraging U.S. jobs data stoked optimism an economic recovery was gaining steam.
The MSCI Latin American stock index rose for the second session in three days, gaining nearly 1 percent to 4,298.46 and erasing the previous day’s losses.
Brazil’s benchmark Bovespa stock index also advanced for a second session in three, rising almost 1 percent to 66,445.56, its highest level in over 10 months.
Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega denied reports the government would impose a tax on foreign purchases of Brazilian stocks.
Speculation over such measures had mounted as the government begins to intervene in the foreign exchange market to stem the real’s appreciation as a flood of cheap loans from the European Central Bank leads investors towards Brazil in search of higher yields.
“The stock market here rose precisely because the finance minister said he wouldn’t touch the market,” said Jose Francisco de Lima Gonçalves, chief economist for Banco Fator in Sao Paulo. “What the minister said signaled that people can keep coming to the market and the exchange will continue rising.”
Oil producer OGX, controlled by Brazil’s richest man Eike Batista, rose 1.2 percent, driving gains in the index, while Itau Unibanco, Brazil’s largest non-government bank, rose 2.2 percent.
Shares of BM&FBovespa, the world’s third-largest exchange, was up 2.1 percent after Reuters reported the company is unlikely to share clearing, custody and settlement facilities with potential rivals until at least 2014.
Food company Marfrig put on 4.6 percent, contributing to a weekly rise of over 21 percent, its best weekly performance since at least July 2007.
Shares have been on an upward trend since the company said Monday it planned a reorganization that would save 330 million Brazilian reais ($193 million) over five years.
Mexico’s IPC index was up for a second day in three, rising 0.4 percent to 37,982.22.
Retailer Wal-Mart Mexico led gains in the index, adding 1.2 percent, while banking group Banorte rose 2.57 percent.
Data showing new U.S. jobless claims edged down to a near four-year low stoked optimism an economic recovery in Mexico’s largest trading partner was gaining steam. The trend tempered a report showing weaker growth in U.S. manufacturing and consumer spending.
“In the last few days, the (U.S. macroeconomic data) has been mixed and that’s exactly why the index hasn’t been able to break through resistance levels with more force,” said Luis Rodriguez, an analyst at brokerage Finamex in Guadalajara.
Mexico’s IPC has traded in a narrow range and failed to break past 38,300 points for more than a week.
Chile’s IPSA index rose for a third straight session, adding 0.4 percent to 4,554.50 and reaching a new 7-month high.
Regional energy group Endesa Chile led gains in the index, rising 1.3 percent, while Banco Santander Chile climbed 1.4 percent.
Retailer Cencosud rose 1 percent after shareholders approved the issuing of shares in foreign markets to help finance growth.
$1 = 1.71 Brazilian reais Additional reporting by Rachel Uranga in Mexico City; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe