NEW YORK (CNNfn) - On the first day of Lent, some bolsas in Latin America were forced to give up some ground, particularly in Venezuela, where stocks slid 4 percent on concern over constitutional reform and uncertainty about the government's economic agenda.
Wall Street's accelerated slide in the afternoon proved a negative factor for others. Mexican stocks, tracking New York throughout the day, added to their earlier losses and ended down 2 percent.
But trading in Brazil, the region's largest economy, was relatively quiet on the heels of Carnival celebrations.
Chavez scares investors
In the first trading day since Carnival festivities, stocks in Venezuela tumbled on comments made over the holiday weekend by President Hugo Chavez regarding constitutional reform and on continued uncertainty over his economic agenda, traders said. An announcement about that agenda was expected after the bell.
The benchmark IBC index fell 162.03 points, or 3.95 percent, to close at 3936.09.
The market was affected "mainly by the comments from Chavez over the weekend
which were badly received because they showed a high-handed and aggressive attitude," said one trader.
Chavez said Monday he would call Venezuelans out onto the streets if the Supreme Court rules that a presidential decree convoking a referendum on constitutional reform was illegal.
Trade in Brazil was relatively lackluster, as players returned to work after five days of Carnival celebrations and sought direction from Wall Street, brokers said.
Sao Paulo's blue-chip Bovespa index ended little changed, having recouped minor losses to end the day up 22 points, or 0.24 percent, to close at 8974.
Markets there had been officially closed from Monday through Wednesday morning.
Mexican stocks traveled in negative territory for much of Wednesday, taking their lead early from a weak Dow, though shares initially were propped up by positive earnings reports and lower interest rates.
By day's end, however, shares accelerated their downward momentum along with Wall Street, finishing down 82.7 points, or 1.99 percent, at 4,076.34.
Elsewhere in the region, shares on Argentina's Merval index were off by 8.2 points, or 2.10 percent, at 382.100 near the close of trade. In Chile, stocks were up 6.57 points, or 0.17 percent, at 3,794.04, while the main share index in Peru closed up 14.25 points, or 1.03 percent, at 1,403.11 as private pension funds bought shares considered to be a good value over the medium term.
Colombian stocks, meanwhile, also ended higher by 4.69 points, or 0.5 percent, at 930.59 ahead of a multimillion-dollar deal expected to give the country's second-largest supermarket chain, Exito, control over larger rival Cadenalco.
-- from staff and wire reports