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Czech Watch – 13 June 2001

13.6.2001 8:35

- Vaclav Klaus asked Premier Zeman through media to explain his statement from Monday that EU enlargement commissioner Verheugen said that if Klaus became premier it would harm Czech chances of joining the EU. If Zeman provides no explanation, Klaus is ready to ask him directly and officially in the parliament. Zeman insists that although Verheugen spoke about Klaus in private, his message was not confidential. Verheugen has refused both confirm or deny that he said what Zeman is quoting him as saying.

- Industrial output jumped +11.4 % year-on-year in real terms in April, after +9.8 % in March. Adjusted for a different number of workdays, the April growth rate still remains high, +8.9 %. Industrial sales grew by 9.6 % year-on-year and adjusted for the number of workdays were up by 7.1 %. Statisticians attribute the continuing sharp growth in industrial output and labor productivity first of all to strong foreign and domestic investment demand. Industrial sales from direct exports rose +19 % and industrial production for investments jumped +25.5 % year-on-year. Industrial companies under foreign control expanded their sales by 19.7 %. Electrical and optical engineering, coke industry and oil refining, rubber and plastics and production of machinery and equipment belong to fastest-growing industrial branches. The opposite holds for leather industry and food industry.

- In the Minutes of the May 31 board meeting published on Tuesday, the CNB states that unlike in the past, when uncertainties on various inflation developments had been evenly distributed, the risks prevail now on the upside. The risks are not strong enough, though, to require any immediate change in the monetary policy setting. At the meeting, the Board discussed the latest situational report on economic and monetary development and concluded that "the slightly higher-than-expected rise in food and fuel prices had not suggested a shift that would generate movement outside the targeted CPI-inflation interval". Board members also debated accelerated wage growth, which could be another factor leading to a rise in inflation pressures. Among external developments, relatively high consumer inflation in Germany was identified to be an unfavorable factor for future Czech inflation. The Board reiterated that the widening fiscal gap and growing external imbalance are the major economic policy issues in the Czech Republic. With Finance Minister Rusnok present at the meeting for the first time, the agreement was confirmed on using the NPF´s privatization account as a “buffer” for elimination of sharp rises in demand for the CZK. The Board decided unanimously (with all 7 members voting) to leave the 2W repo rate unchanged.

- The CNB said on Tuesday that it proposed to the government several changes to the central bank law aimed at increasing the institution's independence. The amendment suggests, for instance, inflation targets independently set by CNB after discussion with the government, instead of the current model when consensus on the target between CNB and the cabinet is required. The central bank law was changed early this year and included several controversial passages criticized, inter alia, by the EU. The government should discuss the proposal on Wednesday.

- The Czech crown hit an all-time high of 33.81 against EUR early on Tuesday, then fell back to late Monday's levels. Late on Tuesday, the crown was at 33.92/95, practically unchanged from 33.93/98 late Monday. The crown/dollar firmed to 40.01/03 from 40.27/30 late on Monday.

- Bonds continued their slide. The state 6.95/16 fell 30 points from late Monday to 99.20/50, yielding 7.03/00 %. The state 6.75/05 fell 40bps to 102.30/60, yielding 6.02/93 %. The corporate CEZ 8.75/04 lost full 70bps, the state CZgb 7.95/04 fell by 50bps. Namely bonds with medium maturity suffered on Tuesday, partly because of approaching CZgb 6.75/05 auction due on Friday.

Late on June 12 bond yield Late on June 11
State 6.75/05102.30/606.02/93102.70/00
State 6.95/1699.20/507.03/0099.50/80

(Martin Kupka)

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