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Currency market calls win for Clinton over Trump as Mexican peso rises

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton pauses during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

If the is any indication, the foreign exchange market seems pretty sure Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton beat her opponent.

Throughout the course of the 90-minute debate which veered widely on issues ranging from Republican candidate Donald Trump's possible failure to pay taxes to Clinton's email server, the Mexican peso surged against the U.S. dollar.

The greenback was fetching 19.5360 Mexican pesos at 10:48 a.m. Wednesday HK/SIN, down from as high as 19.92 pesos before the debate began; that was the lowest for the peso since at least 1989, according to Reuters data. That compared with levels below 17 pesos around the beginning of the year.

Analysts said that was a sign the foreign-exchange market was calling the debate a win for Clinton.

"The peso has come up because the market has judged the odds of Trump winning have gone down," said Ray Attrill, co-head of foreign-exchange strategy, at National Australia Bank. "The peso has been the weapon of choice for betting on Trump winning."

That's because of Trump's positions of greater trade protectionism. He's called for repealing NAFTA, the U.S. trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, and has said he would impose punitive tariffs on Mexican goods imported into the U.S.

Trump has also pledged to crack down on illegal immigration from its Southern neighbor, claiming that Mexico has been sending "criminals" and "rapists." The Republican candidate also had a tense visit to Mexico that ended in a war of tweets with the country's president.

Attrill noted that other currencies also appeared to price in less chance of a Trump win, saying that the yen, a safe-haven currency, weakened for the same reason.

Other foreign-exchange analysts also made the same observation.

Boris Schlossberg, managing director of foreign-exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, said via Twitter during the debate that the Mexican peso's rise was "a pro-Clinton trade."

He also lamented that he hadn't "had more faith in Clinton" and held onto a long dollar/yen trade.

Others were more circumspect about calling a Clinton win, but still pointed to the peso.

"I shall not speculate on whether Clinton won or was Trumped, but clearly, the highest beta currency to a Trump victory thinks she did," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said in a note after the debate. "Maybe the Mexicans know something we don't?"

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—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter