By Shriya Ramakrishnan
(Reuters) – Investors raised their long positions on most Asian currencies to the highest level since late January, a Reuters poll showed, as easing coronavirus-induced lockdowns and massive stimulus fuelled hopes for a swift economic recovery.
The last time long bets in Asian currencies scaled these levels was when the United States and China signed the first phase of an agreement to defuse their 18-month-long trade war, just before panic over the COVID-19 outbreak gripped markets.
Investors cut short positions in China’s yuan to the lowest level since late April, a fortnightly poll of 16 respondents showed.
Easing social gathering restrictions and unprecedented stimulus by central banks have fuelled a new wave of economic recovery optimism, largely reducing the greenback’s appeal and supporting Asian currencies.
Market participants turned bullish on South Korea’s won and Singapore’s dollar for the first time since late January.
Both the trade-reliant economies have rolled out large stimulus packages recently to soften the blow from the pandemic.
Investors were on the verge of turning bullish on the Malaysian ringgit and India’s rupee after nearly five months, as both economies emerged from months of lockdowns.
Long positions on the Thai baht and the Philippine peso climbed, while investors turned bullish on the Taiwan dollar for the first time since early March.
However, the rapidly rising baht, Asia’s top performing currency last year, could prove challenging for authorities seeking to boost the economy.
“Policymakers may be less reluctant to accommodate more currency strength as that could undermine efforts to help their respective economies recover,” said Han Tan, a market analyst at FXTM.
Bullish bets on the Indonesian rupiah rose sharply.
Recent weakness in the dollar has seen a return of yield-seeking investors to the country’s debt market.
“With the Fed forecasting no U.S. interest rate hike until at least 2022, Asian bonds are expected to remain in demand as long as the spreads remain favourable, which should lend support for their respective currencies,” Tan said.
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).
(Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)