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Czech Watch - 23 August 2001

23.8.2001 10:50

- The Czech foreign trade deficit reached CZK 19.0bn in July and CZK 71.3bn in the first seven months of this year. In July last year, the corresponding figures were better by 5bn and 15.8bn, respectively. The actual trade deficit in July 2001 considerably surpassed market predictions. The worse than expected outcome was primarily caused by the balance of trade in machinery and transport equipment that switched from its usual surplus into a deficit amounting to CZK 4.7bn. As a result, a small surplus (CZK 1.0bn) remained preserved only in the trade with manufactured (consumer) goods. Total imports grew 16.8 % year-on-year in current prices in July, faster than total exports (+13.7 %). Machinery and transport equipment import boomed 28.5 %, export in the same segment jumped 20.6 %. Trade deficit in the group of raw materials, semi-finished goods and chemical products reached CZK 13.2bn, agricultural products and food showed a deficit of CZK 2.1bn. From the regional perspective, the trade developed unfavorably particularly with Germany where the balance changed from CZK +3.3bn in July 2000 to CZK -1.7bn in July 2001, out of which trade in machinery and transport equipment showed a change from CZK +1.5bn to CZK -2.0bn. For January to July 2001, imports increased by 19.2 % and exports by 18.4 % year-on-year. Over the last twelve months, the Czech trade deficit stood at CZK 136.6bn. - Finance Minister Rusnok said in an interview that we must expect pressures on the CZK´s firming due to high inflow of FDI and privatization proceeds. "Inflation is under control, the foreign trade balance is improving, public finance deficit is financeable from privatisation proceeds”, argued Rusnok further. "A stronger crown will make it tougher for exporters, but most of them have foreign owners who will be able to cope," concluded the finance minister. Regarding the Temelin power plant, Rusnok repeated that it is to be offered within the privatisation of the power sector. Investors like British Energy and Electricite de France consider the diversity of energy sources to be a great advantage of the Czech power sector, Rusnok noted. - The CNB has already finished work on a central register of loans granted to businesses and is waiting now for passing of an amendment to the law on banks in the parliament. The amendment deals with banks' disclosure duty towards the public, strengthens banking oversight, unifies the granting of banking licences and orders banks to set up internal audits. CNB Board member Pavel Racocha said that if the amendment comes into force as of January 1, 2002, CNB is able to launch the loan register as of the same date. The register should collect information on total debts of individual companies and on the volume of overdue debts. Two private companies are preparing similar registers for individuals.

- The company interested in buying the lorry maker Tatra has called on the government to cancel the tender for Tatra's sale because of lack of transparency. The company Czech Partners says it is ready to bring the case up to an international arbitration court. Czech Partners' lawyer said that clear and binding terms of the tender were not defined and unsuccessful bidders have not been told yet why they had not been chosen. The Czech cabinet should decide on Tatra's strategic partner at the beginning of September.

- Another Czech cow seems to be infected by BSE. Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl announced that a definitive confirmation of whether the cow owned by a private breeder in South Moravia has actually developed BSE will be available on Saturday morning. The first positive test appeared on August 20 and the result was confirmed on Wednesday. A total of 39.6t Czech cows have been BSE-tested to date, with two positive results, Fencl said.

- A firming EUR pushed the Czech crown down on Wednesday to a three-month low against the European currency. Late on Wednesday the crown was down to 34.30/32 against the euro from 34.07/09 late on Tuesday. The crown/dollar closed at 37.30/32, up from late Tuesday's level of 37.37/39.

- Bond prices had fallen by a spread at the long end after the bad news on foreign trade deficit in July, but then gradually returned to previous levels and dipped again in the afternoon due to profit taking. The state 6.95/16 ended the day down 40 basis points from Tuesday at 101.75/05, yielding 6.75/72 %. The state 6.75/05 fell 20 basis points to 101.60/90, yielding 6.21/11 %.

Late on August 22 bond yield Late on August 21
State 6.75/05101.60/906.21/11101.80/10
State 6.95/16101.75/056.75/72102.15/45

(Martin Kupka)

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