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Czech Watch - 21 May 2001

21.5.2001 8:55

A May poll by the CVVM shows that Social Democrats would receive 22 % of votes and win parliamentary elections if they were held now. The 4K and the ODS would place second and third, respectively, with an only negligibly weaker support. The Communists would land fourth with 15 % of the votes. There has been a trend of growing support for the CSSD at the cost of declining support for the Quad Coalition. The support for both the ODS and the KSCM has been fairly stable. The above quoted poll findings do not match with figures reported by the STEM last week. According to the STEM, the 4K would will the elections with about 26 % of votes, the ODS would receive 22 %, the CSSD would get 21 %, and the Communists would obtain 17 %. 65 % of respondents expressed their willingness to go to the polls.

Czech import price growth slowed again in March and lagged behind the export price rise for the first time since March 1999. Import prices grew 2.8 % year-on-year in March, down from 3.6 % in February. Export prices rose 3.8 % after a 4.2 % rise in February. Import prices were positively influenced by lower prices for machinery and transport vehicles while fuel prices pushed them up. Export price growth decelerated also mainly due to the machinery and transport vehicles group.

Finance Minister Jiri Rusnok withdrew a draft law that would have allowed for the issue of bonds totaling CZK 40bn to cover the bulk of the 2001 state budget gap. The reason was that the need the funds was not acute and, in addition, the law had little chance to be approved by the parliament. "Further political meetings will follow to determine when will be the most advantageous moment to introduce the bond program," said Rusnok. The remaining CZK 9bn of the deficit is to be financed through short-term money on the accounts of state financial assets. The Czech State debt at the end of 2000 was CZK 289bn and is expected to rise this year up to CZK 370bn. The total Czech public debt should reach CZK 413.5bn, or 20.5 % of GDP.

Another STEM poll reveals that the 4K has complicated its government negotiations after the 2002 general election by choosing Karel Kuehnl for its leader. Voters of both potential coalition partners, the ODS and the CSSD, assess the new leader negatively. CSSD supporters consider Petr Pithart and Cyril Svoboda (both KDU-CSL) the best acceptable leaders of the 4K while ODS voters prefer rather Mlynar and Marvanova (both Freedom Union). Karel Kuehnl is not a favorite of 4K supporters themselves. More than a half of the 4K's voters prefer Senate chairman Petr Pithart and former 4K leader Cyril Svoboda. The chairmen of the KDU-CSL and the FU, Kasal and Kuehnl, were supported by about 30 % of the polled.

The Czech crown fluctuated between 34.29 and 34.41 CZK/EUR on Friday. Late on the day, CZK/EUR was 34.38/41 from 34.35/38 late on Thursday. Vis-a-vis the dollar, the crown closed at 39.18/21 CZK/USD after 38.92/94 late on Thursday. The loss to the US currency was due to the dollar's gains to the euro, caused by news of an economic slowdown in Europe. The foreign trade figures for April, to be published next Thursday, will affect the crown only if the trade gap is considerably higher than the CZK 8bn deficit expected by the market, dealers say.

Optimistic mood on foreign markets supported Czech bond prices but traded volumes remained quite low. The state 6.95/16 bond gained 13bps to 103.18/48, yielding 6.60/57 %, the state 6.75/05 gained 11 basis points to 103.75/05, yielding 5.60/51 %.

late May 18 bond yield late May 17
State 6.75/05103.75/055.60/51103.64/94
State 6.95/16103.18/486.60/57103.05/35

(Martin Kupka)

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