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POLL-Asian currencies to mostly rise, bullish bets double on S.Korean won

    * Bullish on Asian currencies on expected dollar weakness
    * Bearish bets on Indonesian rupiah at highest since
December 2016
    * Bullish bets on Taiwan dollar at lowest since January 2018

    By Ambar Warrick
    March 8 (Reuters) - Investors remain bullish on most Asian
currencies with bets on the South Korean won doubling over the
past two weeks, a Reuters poll showed, driven by expectations
the dollar would weaken further amid mounting fears of a global
trade war. 
    The greenback, which slumped 10 percent last year in
its steepest drop since 2003, has come under more pressure
recently from U.S. President Donald Trump's planned tariffs on
steel and aluminium - a move that risks retaliatory measures
against U.S. exports from other economies.
    On Thursday, the dollar drew some relief from indications
the tariffs could include carve-outs for key partners, and
steadied above a two-week trough against a basket of six major
currencies, while markets waited for the signing of a
presidential proclamation for further trading cues.
    Given this backdrop, investors have hiked their bullish bets
on the South Korean won and the Malaysian ringgit
, while staying bullish on several others such as the
Singapore dollar, the Chinese yuan and the
Thailand baht, a Reuters poll of 12 analysts showed. 
    The won hit a more than 1-month high this week, capitalizing
on the recent dollar weakness. Annual inflation in the country
rose in February, but held below a 2 percent target, making it a
hurdle to any policy tightening this year .
    The outlook for the ringgit was underpinned by a
better-than-expected jump in Malaysia's January exports.

    The country's central bank maintained its key interest rate
on Wednesday as easing inflationary pressures and solid growth
implied a healthy economy.
    The poll participants also trimmed their bearish bets on the
Philippine peso.
    
    MORE BEARISH ON SOME
    However, bullish positions on some Asian currencies were
trimmed amid views the U.S. central bank could raise interest
rates at a faster pace this year, underpinning the greenback.
    Bullish bets on the Taiwan dollar plunged about 38
points to their lowest since January, the biggest drop amongst
its peers, hurt also by a surprise decline in exports in
February and a more-than-expected rise in inflation.

    Bearish positions on the Indian rupee rose to their
highest since October, as investors took cues from a contraction
in the country's service sector in February.
    Bearish bets on the Indonesian rupiah rose six-fold
to their highest since December 2016. The currency, which has
lost more than 1 percent this year, hit a 2-year low this month.
    Dollar demand from Indonesian companies for debt repayment
has added to the pressure on the rupiah, a senior official in
the central bank recently said.
    Bullish bets on the Chinese yuan were largely
flat, according to the poll. The currency had a strong run in
2017, which it extended into 2018, but a slowdown in factory
activity has raised doubts about the sustainability of China's
economic growth.
    The 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):    
  
 DDMM   CNY    KRW    SGD    IDR    TWD    INR    MYR    PHP   THB
 8/3    -0.61  -0.64  -0.61  0.24   -0.54  0.19   -0.70  1.05  -0.99
 22/2   -0.61  -0.32  -0.47  0.04   -0.92  0.04   -0.6   1.21  -1.02
 8/2    -1.25  -0.34  -0.77  -0.1   -0.88  -0.22  -1.02  0.99  -1.1
 25/1   -1.4   -0.81  -1.45  -0.79  -1.44  -0.71  -1.57  0.51  -1.48
 11/1   -0.47  -1.06  -0.75  -0.40  -0.88  -0.86  -1.05  0.00  -1.04
 14/12  -0.25  -1.02  -0.25  0.00   -0.45  -0.17  -1.08  0.38  -1.12
 30/11  -0.39  -1.34  -0.66  0.00   -0.54  -0.56  -1.16  0.35  -1.16
 16/11  -0.24  -0.72  -0.31  0.16   -0.27  -0.42  -0.85  0.84  -0.87
 2/11   -0.27  -0.7   -0.06  0.2    -0.1   -0.5   -0.42  1.18  -0.75
 19/10  -0.06  0.14   -0.11  -0.35  -0.17  -0.55  -0.5   0.88  -0.58
 5/10   -0.13  0.8    0.11   -0.03  0      0.3    -0.27  0.86  -0.34
 21/9   -0.5   0.21   -0.39  -0.63  -0.28  -0.41  -0.46  0.71  -0.99
 7/9    -1.32  0.13   -0.58  -0.46  -0.46  -0.73  -0.35  0.83  -0.99
 
    
 (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru, additional reporting
by Aaron Jude Saldanha; Editing by Himani Sarkar)
  
 
 
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