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Speculators boost U.S. dollar bets for 3rd week -CFTC, Reuters data

(Adds data, quote, table) March 24 (Reuters) - Speculators increased bullish bets on the U.S. dollar for the third straight week, pushing net longs to their highest since Jan. 31, data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission released on Friday and calculations by Reuters showed.

The value of the dollar's net long position totaled $18.44 billion in the week ended March 21, up from $17.59 billion the previous week.

The value of the dollar has decreased since Tuesday, the last day the CFTC collected data, as concerns about how quickly the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump would be able to implement pro-growth policies kindled safe-haven demand for currencies like the Japanese yen and Swiss franc.

The dollar index, which tracks the dollar against six major currencies, had been above 100 since early February and fell below that level on Tuesday for the first time since Feb. 7.

Prior to Tuesday's market re-route on the so-called Trump trade, the dollar had strengthened steadily in anticipation of an increase in U.S. overnight interest rates by the Federal Reserve.

The Fed did raise rates on March 16, but the dollar came under pressure when the central bank stuck to its forecast for three hikes this year and included warnings about subdued inflation, undermining investors' hopes for a more hawkish sounding statement.

That sent the dollar down, prompting a buying opportunity for speculators, said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.

"It was a week in which many (speculators) could’ve seen the dollar selloff as overdone," Esiner said.

Net short bets on the Japanese yen fell during the week after rising last week to their highest level since mid-January.

To be long a currency is to bet its value will rise, while a short position is a bet that a currency's value will fall.

The Reuters calculation for the aggregate U.S. dollar position is derived from net positions of International Monetary speculators in the yen, euro, British pound, Swiss franc and Canadian and Australian dollars.

Japanese Yen (Contracts of 12,500,000 yen) $7.768 billion 21 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 35,039 35,563 Short 102,026 106,860 Net -66,987 -71,297 EURO (Contracts of 125,000 euros) $5.437 billion 21 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 159,590 148,272 Short 179,252 189,299 Net -19,662 -41,027 POUND STERLING (Contracts of 62,500 pounds sterling) $8.136 billion 21 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 32,586 42,367 Short 140,430 149,484 Net -107,844 -107,117 SWISS FRANC (Contracts of 125,000 Swiss francs) $1.114 billion 21 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 9,089 12,950 Short 21,068 21,947 Net -11,979 -8,997 CANADIAN DOLLAR (Contracts of 100,000 Canadian dollars) $-1.592 billion 21 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 30,293 74,620 Short 54,696 53,162 Net -24,403 21,458 AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR (Contracts of 100,000 Aussie dollars) $-3.27 billion 21 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 85,397 73,553 Short 40,442 30,288 Net 44,955 43,265 MEXICAN PESO (Contracts of 500,000 pesos) $0.139 billion 21 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 57,730 51,271 Short 61,011 56,738 Net -3,281 -5,467 NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR (Contracts of 100,000 New Zealand dollars) $0.388 billion 21 Mar 2017 Prior week week Long 16,599 19,509 Short 29,209 25,114 Net -12,610 -5,605 (Reporting by Dion Rabouin; Editing by James Dalgleish)