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Czech Watch - 26 July 2001

26.7.2001 8:45

- Czech trade deficit was CZK 5.8bn in June, 3.1bn below its value in June 2000. The widest gap was reported from the subgroup raw materials, semi-finished goods and chemical products (CZK -10.0bn). Year-on-year growth rates of imports and exports in current prices reduced further in June, to 2.0 % and 5.2 %, respectively. The highest import growth rate was recorded in the subgroup machinery, chemical products and food. On the export side, machinery and transport equipment, as well as mineral fuels showed the strongest growth. In 2001H1, imports grew 19.7 % and exports 19.0 %; the CZK 53.3bn trade deficit was up CZK 11.9bn compared to 2000H1. The surplus of external trade in manufactured consumer goods (CZK +10.5bn) and the trade deficit in agricultural products and food (CZK -9.8bn) were close to their last year's levels. The most impressive improvement was recorded in machinery and transport equipment (from CZK +4.4bn up to CZK +13.8bn). On the opposite side, the last year’s trade deficit in raw materials, semi-finished and chemical products (CZK -45.7bn) deepened by CZK 22.1bn. From the regional perspective, the trade balance worsened first of all vis-a-vis Germany (the surplus fell by CZK 21.8bn to CZK 14.8bn). Deficits exceeding CZK 10bn were reported from trade with Russia (CZK -31.1bn), China (CZK -14.6 bn) and Japan (CZK -10.1 bn). Notable trade surpluses were achieved with Slovakia (CZK +12.1bn), UK (CZK +9.1bn) and Poland (CZK +7.5bn). The cumulative trade deficit over the last 12 months reached CZK 132.7bn in June 2001.

- The Finance Ministry announced changes in its forecasts of next year's inflation rate (from 4.4 % up to 4.6 %) and unemployment rate (from 7.9 % up to 8.2 %). The 2002 GDP forecast was left at the level of 3.8 %. The new predictions were used as inputs for the 2002 budget draft prepared for discussion in the government. Based on the updated forecast, the Finance Ministry has raised budget revenues estimate by several billion crowns. The Finance Ministry is going to publish its latest quarterly update of macroeconomic predictions on its website http://www.mfcr.cz today at 14:00 LT.

- The International Monetary Fund's annual report on the Czech economy considers critical that the government finds a right balance of policies to ensure sustainability of the current recovery. Roger Nord, IMF representative for Central Europe, told a news conference on the report that his institution sees a solid recovery in the Czech Republic and maintains the projection of economic growth between 3.0 % and 3.5 % for 2001. On the other hand, IMF´s forecast of the general government deficit for the same year amounts to 11.5 % of GDP and is higher than the number used by the Ministry of Finance. Also in the report, the IMF commended CNB for its hands-off stance with regard to the crown. "(We) see no need for monetary policy to deviate substantially from its current accommodative stance, provided that domestic inflationary pressures remain broadly under control", added IMF.

- The cabinet agreed to decide on privatization of the state-owned 51 % stake in Ceske radiokomunikace (CRa) not on Wednesday but after a three-week break in August at the earliest. After the news had been released, CRa´s stock price dropped 6 % at the PSE. According to the Finance Ministry, one of the reasons for the postponement was that the Tuesday’s session of the steering committee for the privatization did not produce a clear recommendation.

- The Czech crown closed weaker against the euro on Wednesday, despite better-than-expected June foreign trade data. A weak dollar against the euro offset gains brought about by the positive trade figures. Late on Wednesday the crown was at 33.87/90 to the euro after 33.85/88 late Tuesday. The crown/dollar firmed to 38.50/53 from 38.70/72 late Tuesday.

- Dealers said the lower-than-expected trade deficit gave a positive signal to the bond market. The longest state 6.95/16 bond closed up 24 basis points at 99.30/60, yielding 7.02/99 %. The state 6.75/05 bond added 15 basis points to 101.15/45, yielding 6.36/27 %.

late July 25 bond yield late July 24
State 6.75/05101.15/456.36/27101.00/30
State 6.95/1699.30/607.02/9999.06/36

(Martin Kupka)

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