By Christina Martin
(Reuters) - Investors raised their long positions in most Asian currencies compared with two weeks ago, with bullish bets on the Chinese yuan at their highest since December, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday, as the dollar languished near multimonth lows on political woes in Washington.
The poll was conducted between Tuesday and Wednesday, with all responses received before the U.S. Federal Reserve concluded its two-day meeting on Wednesday.
The Fed maintained its benchmark lending rate and said it was continuing the slow path of monetary tightening, but it noted that both overall inflation and a measure of underlying price gains had declined. The perceived dovish tone on inflation sent the dollar to a 13-month low against a basket of currencies.
The dollar was already under pressure this week as the Trump administration, dogged by investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election, took a fresh hit after White House spokesman Sean Spicer resigned.
The disarray at the White House has stoked concerns about the administration's ability to pass its tax reform and stimulus agenda.
Investors were estimated to have lifted their bullish bets on most emerging Asian currencies, according to the poll of 12 analysts, traders and fund managers.
Long positions in the Chinese yuan rose to their largest since December, while the Korean won notched up the most bullish bets since May.
Traders have shifted from holding an entrenched bearish view on the yuan following concerted efforts by Beijing to stabilize the currency since the second quarter. The move has also been aided by the dollar facing political headwinds as well as on expectations for a slower pace of Fed rate increases.
Bullish bets on the Thai baht increased to their largest since October 2015, even as Thailand's central bank deputy governor highlighted the baht's rapid rise and said the central bank will closely monitor market activity.
Investors turned bullish on the Taiwan dollar again after being sellers of the currency two weeks ago for the first time since January.
Bearish positions in the Philippine peso increased to their largest since November, as rising imports and a widening current account deficit fueled its weakening streak.
The Philippine government posted a budget deficit of 154.5 billion pesos ($3.05 billion) in the first half of the year, exceeding the ceiling for the period as it missed its revenue and spending targets, the country's budget minister said on Monday.
The Asian currency positioning poll focuses 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 Christina Martin; Additional reporting by Hanna Paul, Ambar Warrick and Shaloo Shrivastava in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Twaronite & Shri Navaratnam)