(Adds comment, details, byline, table) By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss March 17 (Reuters) - Speculators bolstered bullish bets on the U.S. dollar, pushing net longs to their highest since late January, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released on Friday and calculations by Reuters. The value of the dollar's net long position totaled $17.59 billion in the week ended March 14, up from $15.26 billion the previous week. Net long positions on the dollar rose for a third straight week. Net long dollar positioning grew on the expectation of an interest rate hike in March, which was not the case a few weeks ago. At the beginning of the year, the market had priced in a rate increase in June at the earliest. Then, a series of comments from Fed officials opened the possibility of a March rate tightening. The Fed did raise rates on Wednesday, but the dollar came under pressure when it stuck to its forecast for three hikes this year. Dollar/yen has been particularly vulnerable, falling more than 2 percent since the Fed hiked rates on Wednesday. Analysts said they thought the dollar would bounce back after a short stumble. "The Fed is still the only major central bank planning to raise interest rates," said Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management in New York. For dollar/yen, Lien thinks the downside is limited because a number of Fed officials speaking next week will probably remind everyone that interest rates are still moving higher. Net shorts on the Japanese yen, meanwhile, also rose to 71,297 contracts, the highest since mid-January, data showed. The Bank of Japan also held a policy meeting this week and stuck to its ultra-easing policy. As widely expected, the BOJ maintained its pledge to cap long-term rates around zero. BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda made clear that the bank would not follow the Fed's footsteps any time soon, saying Japan still needed massive monetary support with inflation distant from the bank's 2 percent target and risks to growth skewed to the downside. The Reuters calculation for the aggregate U.S. dollar position is derived from net positions of International Monetary Market speculators in the yen, euro, British pound, Swiss franc and Canadian and Australian dollars. Japanese Yen (Contracts of 12,500,000 yen) $7.768 billion 14 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 35,563 39,203 Short 106,860 93,903 Net -71,297 -54,700 EURO (Contracts of 125,000 euros) $5.437 billion 14 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 148,272 137,662 Short 189,299 197,163 Net -41,027 -59,501 POUND STERLING (Contracts of 62,500 pounds sterling) $8.136 billion 14 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 42,367 61,847 Short 149,484 143,284 Net -107,117 -81,437 SWISS FRANC (Contracts of 125,000 Swiss francs) $1.114 billion 14 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 12,950 12,718 Short 21,947 22,734 Net -8,997 -10,016 CANADIAN DOLLAR (Contracts of 100,000 Canadian dollars) $-1.592 billion 14 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 74,620 65,616 Short 53,162 36,396 Net 21,458 29,220 AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR (Contracts of 100,000 Aussie dollars) $-3.27 billion 14 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 73,553 85,221 Short 30,288 34,243 Net 43,265 50,978 MEXICAN PESO (Contracts of 500,000 pesos) $0.139 billion 14 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 51,271 38,707 Short 56,738 81,465 Net -5,467 -42,758 NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR (Contracts of 100,000 New Zealand dollars) $0.388 billion 14 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 19,509 27,207 Short 25,114 31,632 Net -5,605 -4,425 (Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and David Gregorio)
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