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Czech Watch – 11 June 2001

11.6.2001 8:40

- Czech CPI rose 0.6 % month-on-month in May, after +0.4 % in April and +0.2 % a year ago. Year-on-year inflation reached +5.0 % in May, up from a +4.6 % in April. The market expected consumer prices to grow +4.8 % year-on-year and +0.4 % month-on-month. CPI growth accelerated due to growing prices of food, soft beverages, transport, recreation and culture. Net inflation, targeted by the CNB, was +0.8 % month-on-month and +3.8 % year-on-year in May. Vice-governor of the CNB Oldrich Dedek said that "given the new information, CNB is not for the time being changing its long-term estimate of the price development". Only a detailed analysis will show whether the May inflation result is a deviation from the trend, or a signal of a faster growth in prices, Dedek explained. "We are aware that there are probably several risks regarding a future inflation growth," the vice-governor added. CNB expects headline inflation of 3.3-4.4 % at the end of 2001.

- Registered unemployment rate fell from 8.3 % in April to 8.1 % in May. Unemployment rate below 3 % was registered in Prague-west, Prague-east, Benesov, and Pelhrimov. The highest rate was measured in the North Bohemian Most (20.9 %), slightly better situation was in Karvina (17.2 %), Teplice (17.0 %), and city of Ostrava (16.1 %). A rate higher than 12 % was recorded in 12 districts. Unemployed women made up 51.1 % of all unemployed, the share of handicapped persons was 13.9 %. Unemployment benefits were paid to 31.6 % of the registered job seekers. There were 7 job seekers per vacancy on average, the highest ratios was reported from Karvina (45.7), Teplice (40.6), and Most (40.2).

- Czech construction output grew +16.1 % year-on-year in real terms in April (+14.5 % after adjustment for workdays). Labor productivity in construction rose +15.7 % year-on-year, while unit labor costs dropped 4.7 %. Namely investment building and companies with more than 1000 employees contributed to the construction boom (with a +28.6% output increase). Employment in the construction sector was slightly higher than in April 2000.

- CSSD leader Vladimir Spidla believes that the state budget bill for 2002 to be submitted by the cabinet to the Chamber of Deputies will be realistic and will have a good chance to pass through. Spidla is aware, though, that the debate about the budget would be hot. "It is obvious that since the 4K has made it clear that it will not support the budget bill without having seen it, there are certain signals indicating that it will be a much more difficult negotiation than usually," Spidla said. The government asked the Finance Ministry to draft a budget with a deficit as low as CZK 10bn, in order not to break an agreement with the ODS. However, ODS has recently said that the 10bn deficit would not be acceptable for it, if it was reached by more shifting of some expenditures outside the state budget.

- ODS chairman and speaker of the Lower Chamber, Vaclav Klaus, complained to the CT Council that a documentary broadcast aired by the public Czech Television was tendentious and expedient, and actually amounted to an attack against the democratic system in the Czech Republic. In a letter, Klaus calls on CT councilors to prevent "similar cases of abuse of public television, examine whether law has been violated" and specify who was responsible for this. The program "Tentacles of Corruption" showed changing forms of corruption and ways of corruption undermining people's confidence in democracy and economic development.

- After some fluctuation during the day, the Czech crown closed at the same levels on Friday as a day before. CZK/EUR was trading at 34.07/12 late on Friday, following 34.08/11 late Thursday. CZK/USD was also flat at 40.06/09. Worse than expected inflation had little impact on the Czech currency.

- Unlike the forex market, the bond market was sensitive to the inflation data. The state 6.95/16 bond lost 85bps to 100.35/65, yielding 6.91/87 %. The state 6.75/05 fell less, 10bps, yielding 5.72/63 %. The sell-offs brought about by high inflation concerned the whole yield curve. Among all issues, MERO1b 10.3/11 marked the record loss (-115bps). PPI figures for May (to be released on June 13) and a CZgb 6.75/05 auction (to happen on June 15) should be crucial for the bond market development this week.

Late on June 8 bond yield Late on June 7
State 6.75/05103.30/605.72/63103.40/70
State 6.95/16100.35/656.91/87101.20/50

(Martin Kupka)

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