Investors raised bullish positions on most Asian currencies, a Reuters poll showed, as a slew of promising COVID-19 vaccine trial results boosted appetite for riskier emerging market assets and reduced the safe-haven appeal of the dollar. Investors were the most bullish on China's yuan, the fortnightly poll of 15 respondents showed, with long positions on the currency rising to the highest level since Jan. 25, 2018. Data showing economic improvement, relatively low cases of the novel coronavirus and hopes for a better trade relationship with the United States under a Joe Biden presidency helped the yuan hit a 29-month high against the dollar last week. "While Biden is likely to maintain a bold stance against China and perhaps retain current tariffs for use as leverage in negotiations, markets are likely pricing in the end of tit-for-tat spats for now," said Daniel Dubrovsky, an analyst at Daily FX. COVID-19 vaccines being developed by U.S. drugmakers Moderna and Pfizer, and British company AstraZeneca have shown promising results in late-stage trials, raising prospects of a quicker return to normal and speedy economic recovery. Long positions on the Singapore dollar held at their highest since late January 2018, as the city-state's economy contracted less than estimated in the third quarter due to an easing of COVID-19 lockdown measures. Similarly, bullish bets on the Malaysian ringgit rose to their highest since mid-September, helped by a rosier growth outlook for 2021 by the central bank and a smaller-than-expected economic contraction in the third quarter. Capital inflows into Asia, given 2021 growth expectations, should help keep those currencies afloat as investors chase higher returns, while loose U.S. monetary policy will keep global borrowing costs depressed and credit markets lubricated, depressing the dollar, Dubrovsky added. Bullish views for the Indonesian rupiah eased slightly while those on the Philippine peso did not improve in tandem with the rest, after central banks in both nations surprised markets with rate cuts last week. Investors were the least bullish towards the Indian rupee, given the central bank's aggressive dollar purchases and resistance to currency appreciation, with weak economic data and high coronavirus case numbers further weighing on sentiment. Long positions on the Thai baht were scaled back as anti-government protests in the nation continued, with thousands of protesters calling on King Maha Vajiralongkorn to cede control of royal fortune earlier this week. While most risks that have weighed on the performance of Asian FX so far have now dimmed, the next major event would be how vaccine distribution plays out, said Sim Moh Siong, a FX strategist at Bank of Singapore. Impediments to widespread vaccine distribution are something that should be looked out for, he said, adding that: "It could upset the risk-on, weaker dollar backdrop that we're seeing right now." 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). REUTERS
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