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Czech Watch - 20 August 2001

20.8.2001 9:30

- The Czech deputy PM Pavel Rychetsky announced his cabinet’s intention to submit to the parliament a new constitutional bill on referendum. If passed, it would be possible to organize plebiscites on key internal as well as foreign political issues, including the country’s entry into the European Union. A referendum would be proposed by the parliament or the government and declared by the President. A necessary condition for running a referendum would be a petition signed by at least 300t people. To push through a proposal in a referendum, an absolute majority of participating voters would be required. The cabinet is scheduled to discuss the bill at its first session in September. - Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia will establish a joint brigade that should start operating in June next year, i.e. before the NATO summit to be held in Prague in fall 2002. The treaty establishing the brigade is to be signed by the countries' governments in September. The draft treaty on the brigade does not give any detailed information about the Czech republic's participation. The reason why the details will not be arranged until early next year is the fact that Slovakia, is not a NATO member yet. The brigade should demonstrate that Czechs and Poles want Slovakia to join. The brigade will consist of three national battalions and will be deployed in peacekeeping operations organized by NATO and the EU. - Service sales rose 2.3 % in real terms year-on-year and fell 0.3 % (seasonally adjusted) month-on-month in June. For 2001H1, the real growth rate was 5.2 % year-on-year. Retail sales (incl. sale, maintenance and repair of motor vehicles and sale of automotive fuel) further decelerated their growth in June to +2.2 % year-on-year. Compared with May, lower growth rates were measured namely at sales of motor vehicles, sales in non-specialized stores with predominating food, and sales of furniture and household furnishings and equipment. High growth rates sustained in stores selling textile, footwear, pharmaceutical and medical goods, and cosmetic and toilet articles. Real sales in hotels and restaurants grew 1.5 % year-on-year, transport sales in transport added 2.4 %. Boom in telecommunication sales continued (+16.8 % year-on-year). Computer and related activities sales went up 6.8 % in real terms.

- Vaclav Klaus (chairman of ODS) and Cyril Svoboda (head of KDU-CSL) discussed the 2002 state budget and potential cooperation between their parties on Friday. Klaus called the meeting calm and constructive. Klaus met Svoboda for the first time as KDU-CSL chairman since Svoboda´s election in May this year. "Of course we talked about potential future cooperation of the two parties…, mainly after the next elections, but...on the level of exchanging information, not on the level of signing some agreement," Klaus told CTK.

- The Czech crown closed at 34.08/11 to the euro on Friday from 33.99/04 late on Thursday. Dealers expect a range of 33.90-05 CZK/EUR early next week. Crown/dollar was trading flat at 37.16/18 late Friday from 37.16/20 on Thursday.

- Bond prices rose on Friday. Demand for a CZK 4bn tranche of the state 6.40/10 bond in the Friday’s auction reached 11.8bn. Average yield was 6.82 %. According to dealers, coverage of short positions as well as receding fears of a strong interest rate hike on the CNB Board meeting on August 30 helped to improve market sentiment. A 25bps hike at the CNB meeting has been already priced in. Weaker-than-expected retail sales data for June also supported bond prices. Late on Friday the 6.40/10 state bond was up 30bps points from Thursday at 97.30/60, yielding 6.82/77 %. The longest state 6.95/16 bond gained 45bps at 100.30/60, yielding 6.91/88 %. The state 6.75/05 closed flat at 101.00/30, yielding 6.40/31 %.

Late on August 17 bond yield Late on August 16
State 6.75/05101.00/306.40/31101.00/30
State 6.95/16100.30/606.91/8899.85/15

(Martin Kupka)

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