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Czech Watch - 12 July 2001

12.7.2001 8:58

- Consumer prices in June grew +1.0 % month-on-month and +5.5 % year-on-year. Analysts had predicted a month-on-month increase in CPI only +0.5 % and the year-on-year growth rate +4.9 %. Net inflation monitored by the CNB stood at 1.3 % month-on-month and at 4.4 % year-on-year. The year-on-year rise in CPI was the highest since December 1998 when it stood at 6.8 %. The driving factors behind the June inflation were food and non-alcoholic beverages as well as recreation and culture. Food prices rose mainly due to considerably higher prices of early potatoes. Inflation related to recreation and culture was primarily due to a seasonal growth in prices of holiday trips abroad. The June inflation was higher than the CNB's expectations for the third time in a row. CNB vice-governor Oldrich Dedek nonetheless said that the results “do not suggest an acceleration of demand pressures". In the future, the weight of demand-pulled inflation will increase while depressing cost-pulled inflation will be less efficient, added Dedek.

- Construction output grew 15.2 % year-on-year in May. Labor productivity rose by 15.3 % and unit labor costs fell by 7.9 % year-on-year. Construction output was chiefly pulled up by projects like hypermarkets and fabric halls and by ongoing growth of repair and maintenance work on existing projects. May employment in construction stagnated year-on-year.

- Registered unemployment in the Czech Republic remained unchanged at 8.1 % in June. The lowest unemployment rate was registered in Prague-West (2.2 %), Prague-East (2.7 %), and Benesov (2.8 pct). The opposite holds for Most (21.4 %), Karvina (17.5 %), and Teplice (16.9 %). Forty-four labor offices registered a drop in the number of job seekers, growth in unemployment rate was seen in thirty-two districts. At the end of June, women made up 51.8 % of the unemployed and the handicapped 13.8 %. Unemployment benefits were paid to 32.6 % of the registered unemployed. There were on average 7 job seekers per vacancy, with the least convenient ratios measured in Karvina (40), Teplice (37.7), and Most (36.4).

- As early as in the last fall, the Czech cabinet approved the initial selection of advisers for privatization of power and gas industries, but the anti-monopoly office (UOHS) finally decided to cancel the result of both tenders and returned the process back to the phase of bid assessment. Recently, the National Property Fund has made another step and cancelled both tenders as such. Its decision cannot be appealed. The decision on the method of the search for a strategic partner for the two industries is now up to the government. The Industry and Trade Ministry and the Finance Ministry have proposed that the cabinet should pick an adviser for the privatization of the two industries by addressing a single company. According to the ministries, the proposal aims at prevention of delays in the privatization process. The legal basis for the proposed method should be the existing law on public orders.

- The Czech crown shrugged off the CPI news soon and tracked the Polish zloty in volatile trading. CZK shed much less than PLZ or HUF, hurt in the past days by fears of default in Argentina and Polish budget problems. Late on Wednesday the crown was trading at 33.95/98 and finished below late Tuesday's level 33.87/90. The crown/dollar firmed to 39.43/45 from late Tuesday level of 39.59/61.

- Czech bond prices fell as a result of shockingly high CPI inflation in June. The longest state 6.95/16 bond fell 150bps from its late Tuesday level to 98.30/60, yielding 7.14/11 %. The state 6.75/05 lost 95bps from late Tuesday to 100.90/20, yielding 6.44/35 %. The substantial price drop could spark interest in Friday's auction of a CZK 4bn tranche of the state 6.30/07 bond.

late July 11 bond yield late July 10
State 6.75/05100.90/206.44/35101.85/15
State 6.95/1698.30/607.14/1099.80/10

(Martin Kupka)

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