(New throughout, adds sterling contracts, table, details on dollar and sterling) By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss NEW YORK, June 10 (Reuters) - Speculators ramped up their bets against sterling in the latest week by the most in nearly five years, as hedge funds and other asset managers struck a decidedly defensive stance in the British currency two weeks ahead of a crucial referendum over whether the country should remain in the European Union. Sterling net short positions more than doubled to 66,299 contracts, valued at nearly $6 billion, in the week ended June 7 from 32,851 the previous week, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission released on Friday. It was the largest net short position in sterling in three years, and the weekly increase was the largest since September 2011. Speculators have been persistently net short sterling for about six months. Until the latest reading, however, net short positioning had fallen substantially from the previous three-year high hit back in April. With market participants growing increasingly focused on what is seen as a toss-up result, open interest in CME sterling futures has been building. In the latest week, it rose by more than 15,000 contracts to a three-month high of 259,238 valued at more than $23 billion. Sterling on Friday fell to a two-month low in the wake of the latest poll on the EU referendum, and so far this year, the British pound was down 3.2 percent. Britons will vote on June 23 on whether to leave the EU, a decision with far-reaching implications for politics, the economy and trade in Europe. According to a poll by ORB for The Independent newspaper published on Friday, the "Leave" camp was 10 points ahead of "Remain". It was the biggest lead enjoyed by those wanting Britain to quit the 28-member bloc since the poll series started a year ago, The Independent said. Net long dollar positioning, meanwhile rose for a third straight week, with net longs rising to their highest in four months despite last week's U.S. non-farm payrolls report for May that came way below market expectations. The value of the dollar's net long position rose to $11.30 billion in the week ended June 7, from $4.86 billion the previous week. Position changes were most significant among the reserve currencies, with notable deteriorations in already bearish sentiment toward the euro and the British pound. Swiss franc net positioning has turned bearish from neutral. The yen, meanwhile, is the largest held net long while the euro and sterling were the largest held net shorts. The Reuters calculation for the aggregate U.S. dollar position is derived from net positions of International Monetary Market speculators in the yen, euro, sterling, Swiss franc and Canadian and Australian dollars. Japanese Yen (Contracts of 12,500,000 yen) 07 Jun 2016 Prior week week Long 68,237 46,964 Short 25,384 32,127 Net 42,853 14,837 EURO (Contracts of 125,000 euros) 07 Jun 2016 Prior week week Long 93,492 98,218 Short 160,604 135,872 Net -67,112 -37,654 POUND STERLING (Contracts of 62,500 pounds sterling) 07 Jun 2016 Prior week week Long 36,337 36,546 Short 102,636 69,397 Net -66,299 -32,851 SWISS FRANC (Contracts of 125,000 Swiss francs) 07 Jun 2016 Prior week week Long 21,644 24,291 Short 31,289 24,162 Net -9,645 129 CANADIAN DOLLAR (Contracts of 100,000 Canadian dollars) 07 Jun 2016 Prior week week Long 37,421 38,753 Short 15,884 12,494 Net 21,537 26,259 AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR (Contracts of 100,000 Aussie dollars) 07 Jun 2016 Prior week week Long 35,406 44,560 Short 51,214 49,318 Net -15,808 -4,758 MEXICAN PESO (Contracts of 500,000 pesos) $1.615 billion 07 Jun 2016 Prior week week Long 22,389 20,193 Short 81,698 75,808 Net -59,309 -55,615 NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR (Contracts of 100,000 New Zealand dollars) 07 Jun 2016 Prior week week Long 38,562 31,919 Short 30,026 26,415 Net 8,536 5,504 (Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Diane Craft and David Gregorio)
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