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By Patrick Graham
LONDON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Hedge funds have ramped up bets on a sharp devaluation of China’s yuan since the Bank of Japan cut interest rates into negative territory, with the bias towards yuan falls in options markets hitting its highest on record on Monday.
Reuters data on Monday showed riskier bets that only pay out if the yuan weakens to more extreme levels well above 7 per dollar - low delta 1-year puts - passed highs hit around Beijing’s one-off mini-devaluation last August.
“Since the Bank of Japan was so dovish last week, all of these countries are under a lot more pressure to devalue,” said a dealer with one Asian bank in London.
“That kind of pressure translates into some of the buying interest we have seen in options. I assume that there’s also a link to some of the buying of spot dollars we have seen. Some of these short-sellers in (offshore yuan) are testing the boundaries again.”
In early morning trade in London, when dealers in the world’s biggest currency trading centre are operating alongside their counterparts in Beijing and Shanghai, the bias toward a weaker yuan - essentially a net measurement - on nine-month contracts held just below the records hit in August.
But the skew towards a weaker yuan on all maturities against the dollar has still roughly doubled in the past 10 days.
Spot yuan, trading at 6.60 to the dollar on Monday, has held largely steady since a surge in selling in the first week of January. Offshore rates for the currency, however, did touch 6.63, their weakest since January 11 on Friday, before recovering.
Hedge fund managers told Reuters last month that a number of mainly U.S-based macro hedge funds were raising bets through low delta options on an up to 50 percent devaluation.
Analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch on Friday called for G20 financial leaders to agree next month in Shanghai joint steps that would include a one-off devaluation of the yuan and a commitment to a stable dollar next month to prop up flagging growth and head off another financial market panic.
Richard Benson, head of portfolio management with currency fund Millennium in London, said that to pay out on current options market pricing, the yuan would have to fall to at least 6.90 to the dollar within the next three months or past 7.20 within the year.
“It is people looking for short term depreciation of CNH, that’s what has driven this change in pricing,” he said.
“(But) you need quite a big move to make money out of this. These are really expensive positions to be holding through the Lunar New Year.” (Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)