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Czech Watch - 9 August 2001

9.8.2001 8:45

- Czech CPI inflation reached +5.9 % year-on-year in July 2001, its highest value over last two years and a half. In July 2000, the inflation was +3.9%. The principal culprits of the surprisingly strong price growth in July were housing prices (responsible for 2.7 percentage points), food and non-alcoholic beverages (1.7 p.p.) and recreation and culture (0.9 p.p.). Compared to June, consumer prices rose +1.0 % in July (after +0,6 % a year ago), of which regulated prices accounted for 0.4 percentage points (0.3 last year). Regulated prices contributed to the inflation mainly through increases in natural gas prices (+11.2 %) and net rentals in tenant dwellings (+3.6%). In the non-regulated segments, a 24.6 % increase in prices of holiday trips abroad significantly boosted overall inflation. Core inflation (headline inflation adjusted for the influence of changes in regulated prices, tax adjustments and other administrative measures) was 0.6% month-on-month in July. Net inflation (watched by the CNB) stood at 0.7% month-on-month and 4.7% year-on-year. The central bank pointed out that July inflation was driven by a narrow segment of the price basket and did not show overall growth of demand-side pressures. At the same time, though, CNB admitted that there was growing danger of rising inflation expectations. CNB Vice-Governor Oldrich Dedek remarked that "although July inflation data do not show a broad-based increase in demand pressures, the central bank sensitively perceives the growth of the risk of inflation expectations, pulled not only by a series of cost shocks, but also expansive fiscal policy." The next monetary policy meeting of the CNB board is scheduled for August 30, the same day when the next ECB´s meeting takes place. The current economic slowdown in Western Europe and expectations for interest rate cuts there put a constraint on the size of a possible rate hike in the Czech Republic.

- The rate of registered unemployment in the Czech Republic grew to 8.5 % in July, up from 8.1 % in June. Labor offices registered 19.5t job seekers more than a month ago but 30.0t less compared to July 2000. The share of school leavers, university graduates and teenagers in overall unemployment rose from 11.9 % in June to 13.2 % in July, pointing out to a significant seasonal component in the unemployment change. The lowest unemployment was traditionally measured in the districts of Prague-west (2.4 %), Prague-east and Benesov (both 3 %), and in the city of Prague (3.3 %). The highest rate annoyed inhabitants of Most (21.4 %), Karvina (18 %), and the city of Ostrava (16.8 %). A month-on-month growth in unemployment happened in 76 districts. Unemployment benefits were paid to 34.7 % of the registered unemployed in July. There were 7.2 job seekers per vacancy in the country on average, while in Karvina and Teplice the ratio exceeded 30.

- The Senate passed the government bill on consumer loans which now needs only Vaclav Havel’s signature to become effective. According to the bill, the loan providers would have to inform borrowers about all aspects of the deal in contracts closed from the beginning of the next year.

- The Defence Ministry is planning to spend more than CZK 1bn on reconstruction and equipment of two key Czech air bases. "In the situation when we place there fighter planes worth CZK 51bn (L-159), I feel the need to convert these airfields into regular air bases of a basic type," explained Defence Minister Tvrdik the decision.

- The Czech crown firmed very slightly against the dollar as a result of expectations of foreign currency inflows. Dealers said the poor inflation result did not hurt the crown significantly. Late on Wednesday the crown was flat at 33.81/84 to the euro compared to late Tuesday. Crown/dollar was up at 38.52/54 from 38.54/56 late Tuesday.

- Worse-than-expected July headline inflation data drove Czech bonds sharply downwards in early trade on Wednesday, but most issues recovered somewhat when the overall inflation figure was more thoroughly analyzed. The state 6.95/16 bond lost 35 points from late Tuesday at 99.10/40, yielding 7.04/01. The state 6.75/05 fell 65bps at 100.00/30, yielding 6.73/63 %. The yield on Unipetrol 9.00/04 touched 8 %.

late August 8 bond yield late August 7
State 6.75/05100.00/306.73/63100.65/95
State 6.95/1699.10/407.04/0199.45/75

(Martin Kupka)

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