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Czech Watch - 7 November 2001

7.11.2001 11:20

- Construction output grew 3.6 % and 5.0 % year-on-year before and after working days adjustment in September. Production rose only in large enterprises (1000+ employees, +11.2 %), small companies (100 employees or less) recorded a drop by 2.1 %. Growth deceleration in September was caused by a decrease in the volume of construction work on repairs and maintenance, delayed invoicing resulting from delayed financing of some construction projects and a higher base for comparison in September 2000. The average nominal wage in construction reached CZK 14778 in September 2001, real wage went up 3.0 % year-on-year and labor productivity increased 3.4 %. The unit wage costs grew 4.4 % (partly due to extraordinary bonuses paid). In month-on-month terms, seasonally adjusted construction output fell 0.2 % this September. Building permits were worth about CZK 20.5bn, CZK 4.4bn less year-on-year. The Czech Statistical Office remarks, though, that in the last case the base for comparison is rather high due to building permits granted in September 2000 mostly for large constructions for transport purposes.

- According to the Minutes of the Board meeting held on October 25, which were released yesterday, the CNB Bank Board decided to leave the two-week repo rate unchanged with a solid majority of six votes to one. The member voting for a change proposed to cut interest rates by 25 basis points. The Bank Board also decided unanimously to intervene on the foreign exchange market with the aim of weakening CZK. Regarding its regular quarterly macroeconomic prognosis, CNB reduced expected growth of foreign demand and import prices and consequently lowered the inflation forecast for the years 2001 and 2002 and stated that "the inflation forecast remained inside the targeted band in the range of the most effective transmission". The bank also reduced its prediction of the GDP growth to 3.6 % this year and 3.9 % in 2002. According to the Board, the considerable decline of inflation in September "supported the assumption of the short-term character of inflation growth in past months. Currently, import prices displayed anti-inflationary tendencies, and their neutral or even anti-inflationary effect could also be expected next year". The Bank Board agreed that although a loose fiscal policy reduces negative impacts of slowdown in foreign demand on the Czech economy, a mid-term trend of growth of the public account deficit is disturbing, as it deepens the incapability of the fiscal policy as an effective macroeconomic instrument.

- Representatives of the Budget-Financed Organizations' Trade Unions (ROPO) did not reach an agreement with Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla on future pay rise in the public sector. The ROPO consists of 11 trade unions that represent about 800t employees. Negotiations are to continue after the second reading of the 2002 budget bill in the Parliament. The trade unions now want to address particular deputies and support their claims with petitions. The original agreement between the government and trade unions said that civil servants pay would increase by 8 % as of January 2002. Last week the government decided to postpone the planned pay rise to April without informing the trade unions in order to save about CZK 1.5bn.

- The Finance Ministry revised its estimate of GDP growth this year to +3.7 % against +3.6 % predicted in July, but left the forecast for GDP growth in 2002 unchanged at +3.8 %. The October forecast will be published on the Ministry's website on Thursday. Average inflation for this year will be revised to 4.9 % from the previous 5.1 %, while the forecast for 2002 remains unchanged at 4.6 %. Unemployment rate’s forecast was raised by 0.1 percentage point to 8.5 % in 2001 and 8.3 % in 2002.

- The Czech crown had opened at 33.44 and then oscillated within a narrow range of 33.42 - 33.47 CZK/EUR in technical trading on Tuesday. Against the dollar, the crown had opened at 37.22 and weakened somewhat in the afternoon because of worse than expected confidence figures reported from Europe and ahead of FOMC interest rate cut. CZK/EUR was trading at 33.42/45 late on Tuesday, practically unchanged from 33.44/47 on Monday evening. CZK/USD closed at 37.26/28 on Tuesday, up from late Monday’s 37.31/33.

- Bond prices rose since the beginning of the Tuesday’s session. Also issues with short and medium maturity benefited from investors´ strong appetite. The demand drove up also prices of corporate bonds. The longest state 6.95/16 benchmark jumped 85bps on Tuesday to 116.40/70, yielding 5.28/25 %. The state 6.75/05 bond rose 45bps compared to Monday’s close to 106.25/50, yielding 4.64/56 %.

Late on November 6 bond yield Late on November 5
State 6.75/05106.25/504.64/56105.80/05
State 6.95/16116.40/705.28/25115.55/85

(Martin Kupka)

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