Asian FX bulls return as dollar slips; short bets on Indian rupee spike

An India Rupee note is seen in this illustration photo June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration
  • U.S. dollar weakness, cooling Treasury yields help Asian FX
  • Long bets on yuan, Singapore dollar at highest since late Feb
  • Bullish bets on Philippine peso at more than 2-month high
  • Short bets on Indian rupee at 1-year high as virus surges

April 22 (Reuters) - Investors turned bullish on most Asian currencies, a Reuters poll found, as easing bets of a sooner-than-expected hike in U.S. interest rates drove down U.S. Treasury yields and curbed the dollar's interest rate advantage.

Sentiment towards currencies of export-focused nations with lower COVID-19 cases improved the most, the fortnightly poll of 13 respondents found. Bearish views on the Indian rupee, however, rose sharply as COVID-19 cases surged in the country.

The spike in U.S. Treasury yields last month has reversed course, as worries over a potential acceleration in inflation faded, while the U.S. Federal Reserve also made it clear that it would not hike interest rates anytime soon. read more

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As a result, investors have pulled out of the greenback, sending it to multi-week lows.

"The U.S. central bank continues to hold the stance that a rise in inflation may be transitory," said Daniel Dubrovsky, a strategist at IG's DailyFX.

"I believe what we are seeing is a relief rally in ASEAN FX. This could continue if the Fed remains dovish as the growth story plays out. Only time will tell what will happen between growth and inflation."

Long bets on the yuan stood at their highest in nearly two months, as China's economic recovery quickened sharply in the first quarter to record growth of 18.3% from last year's coronavirus slump, led by exports. read more

Bullish positions on the Singapore and Taiwanese dollars were at their highest since early and late February, respectively, as exports data painted pictures of strong growth.

Long positions on the Philippine peso were at a more than two-month high, as data showed the country's trade deficit shrank in February while remittances, an important source of dollars to the country, grew after months of declines.

Bearish bets on India's rupee climbed to their highest since last April, as a virus surge halted what was recently seen as a promising growth story in the region.

Markets were aggressively pricing in hawkish Reserve Bank of India monetary policy expectations too, which unwound after the central bank revealed at its policy meeting this month that it was still dovish, DailyFX's Dubrovsky said.

"So combine this with surging COVID-19 cases and prospects of tightening look increasingly grim, leaving the rupee vulnerable in the near term," Dubrovsky said.

India on Thursday reported more than 300,000 coronavirus daily cases, the highest daily global total. Vaccinations, in contrast, have been sluggish and healthcare facilities severely strained, prompting widespread curbs. read more

Short bets on the Thai baht persisted as the nation struggles with a new coronavirus wave that includes a highly transmissible variant, and faces a shortage of vaccines, with no recovery of its important tourism industry in sight. read more

The Asian currency positioning poll is focused on what analysts and fund managers believe are the current market positions in nine Asian emerging market currencies: the Chinese yuan, South Korean won, Singapore dollar, Indonesian rupiah, Taiwan dollar, Indian rupee, Philippine peso, Malaysian ringgit and the Thai baht.

The poll uses estimates of net long or short positions on a scale of minus 3 to plus 3. A score of plus 3 indicates the market is significantly long U.S. dollars.

The figures include positions held through non-deliverable forwards (NDFs).

The survey findings are provided below (positions in U.S. dollar versus each currency):

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Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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