Foreign bets against Chile peso near 6-month high
* Positions suggest Chile peso to weaken * Revival of euro zone fears hike bets against peso * But looming Chile rate hike could ease positions By Moises Avila SANTIAGO, April 4 (Reuters) - Foreign bets against the Chilean peso are at their highest level in almost six months on revived fears of a recession in Europe but expectations of a looming interest rate hike due to an uptick in Chilean inflation could ease investor positions. Chilean non-deliverable forwards, or foreign exchange contracts settled in dollars, point to a weaker peso, with the net position against the currency increasing to $6.5 billion, according to central bank data to April 2. The Chilean currency has gained over 7 percent this year, buoyed by signs of economic recovery in the United States and dwindling euro zone debt worries, but positions taken by foreign investors and held by local banks against the peso have accelerated in recent months. "This is probably reflecting recent uncertainty, but as expectations of a rate hike grow, bets against the peso will recede," said Ruben Catalan, economist with Bci Estudios brokerage in Santiago. The Chilean central bank is expected to maintain its 'wait-and-see' mode, holding rates at 5.0 percent in coming months as it weighs an uptick in domestic inflation against lingering global demand risks to the export-dependent country. The bank on Tuesday raised its 2012 economic growth and inflation forecasts on signs a global slowdown is less severe than expected, bolstering views a rate increase forecast by year-end could come sooner than expected. But before being affected by rate expectations, the peso is expected to further weaken from its preliminary 483.60 per dollar Wednesday close, traders say. Bets against the peso also gathered steam as pension funds and other local institutions have recently taken up foreign exchange coverage with Chilean banks, which subsequently sold dollars abroad to avoid currency imbalances, thus generating more demand for greenbacks. A drop in prices for top export copper, which on Wednesday peeled back from near two-month highs, on a rising dollar and disappointment over the U.S. Federal Reserve's retreat from another round of monetary stimulus, could further hit the Chilean currency. Latin America's most traded currencies also weakened on Wednesday, hit by new concerns over the health of the global economy. Net positions against the Chilean currency are at their highest since Oct. 6, when they reached $6.5 billion.