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Czech Watch – 18 June 2001

18.6.2001 8:45

- The City Court in Prague sentenced former communist prosecutor Karel Vas (85) to seven years in prison for his role in the judicial murder of General Pika. Heliodor Pika, a hero in both World Wars, was accused by the Communists in 1948 of espionage and treason and after being sentenced was hanged on June 21, 1949. Due to Vas's immediate appeal, the verdict has not yet taken effect.

- The Czech Statistical Bureau (CSU) announced revised GDP growth figures for 1996-2000. After the revision, GDP in 2000 grew +2.9 % (so far +3.1 %), in 1999 -0.4 % (-0.8 %), in 1998 -1.2 % (-2.2 %), in 1997 -0.8 % (-1.0 %), and in 1996 +4.3 % (+4.8 %). All data are in 1995 constant prices. As for 2001Q1, CSU chairperson Marie Bohata expects GDP growth above 4 %. "My personal estimate is based on monthly results. The economy is developing well and the dynamics is high in industry, construction, and services,” Bohata said. The CSU does not expect any other GDP revision this year, but will slightly revise aggregate output data from 1998 in June 2002.

- Import prices rose 0.2 % month-on-month in April after four consecutive months of falls. Export prices also increased by 0.2 %. In year-on-year terms, import prices rose 2.2 % and export prices were up by just 1.9 %. In the year-on-year comparison, import prices of mineral fuels rose 15.6 % and import prices of crude materials except fuels increased by 2.5 %. The biggest the year-on-year jump in export prices was also measured at mineral fuels (+12 %), food and live animals prices grew +6.3 %, and manufactured articles prices added +3.6 %. Czech terms of trade slightly deteriorated in April to 99.7.

- The Czech state debt fell 5.1 % quarter-on-quarter to CZK 274.7bn at the end of 2001Q1 from CZK 289.3bn at the end 2000Q4. Internal debt shrank from CZK 269.6bn to CZK 255.8bn and external debt reduced from CZK 19.7bn down to CZK 18.9bn. Finance Ministry newly estimates state debt to grow up to CZK 351bn by the end of 2001 (two month ago, the estimate was as high as CZK 370bn). The reasons behind the change in forecast are the lower-than-expected loss of Konsolidacni banka for 2000 and the transfer of a part of the loss´ coverage to the National Property Fund. Also, unlike in 2000, when the cabinet financed daily state budget deficits through treasury bills issues, the new budgetary rules allow the government to use idle funds on its accounts to cover the gaps. The government now also has the right to buy the treasury bills and thereby temporarily reduce state debt.

- Miroslav Somol, former Czech ambassador to international organizations in Geneva and deputy minister for foreign trade in 1993-1996 will be appointed new deputy industry and trade minister, effective July 1. He will be in charge of EU affairs. By creation of the new position, the ministry hopes to streamline and speed up agenda related to the accession talks as regards its competencies. So far, the industry and trade ministry had six deputies.

- All laboratory tests performed on each of 134 cattle, slaughtered on Friday at the Dusejov cooperative farm in the Jihlava region due to suspicion of mad cow disease (BSE) were negative.

- The Czech crown was calm on Friday, trading flat at about 34 CZK/EUR all day long. Late on the day, CZK strengthened to 33.94/97b CZK/EUR, and achieved thereby the same level as late Thursday. Against the dollar, the crown firmed to 39.37/39 CZK/USD late Friday from 39.48/50 late Thursday. Dealers say that the crown can be affected by news concerning a planned repayment of a part of the Russian debt worth some USD 0.5bn.

- Pulled down by negative market sentiment, bond prices went on falling despite oversubscription (CZK 1.6bn above offered CZK 4bn) of the state 6.75/05 in a Friday’s auction. Speculations about a bad outcome of the auction plus rising interest rate swap prices sent longest state benchmarks down in the morning and the losses were not compensated in the afternoon, after actual auction results were announced. The longest state 6.95/16 lost 95bps to 98.65/95, yielding 7.10/06 %, the state 6.75/05 lost 30bps to 101.70/00, yielding 6.20/11.

Late on June 15 bond yield Late on June 14
State 6.75/05101.70/006.20/11102.00/30
State 6.95/1698.65/957.10/0699.60/90

(Martin Kupka)

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