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Czech Watch – 11 May 2001

11.5.2001 8:55

Registered unemployment rate fell for the third time this year and reached 8.3 % by the end of April. A month ago, the rate was 8.7 %. The April figure is the lowest since May 1999, when the unemployment rate was as low as 8.1 %. Strong investment activities and seasonality appear to be principal factors explaining unemployment reduction by about 20 thousand persons in April. The lowest unemployment rate (below 3 %) was traditionally measured in districts neighboring to Prague. Unemployment rate above 12 % was reached in 15 districts (1/5 of the total). 32.3 % of registered unemployed received unemployment benefit in April. There were 7.5 applicants on average competing for a job vacancy offered through labor offices.

Consumer prices rose 4.6 % year-on-year and 0.4 % month-on-month in April, compared to +4.1 % and +0.1 % in March. The CSU said the bulk of the increase in consumer prices came on the back of food and automotive fuel prices, both factors that are largely out of the central bank's reach. Food prices grew by 0.9 % from March due to dearer fruit, vegetables, bread and cereals. Transport prices rose 1.1 % month-on-month, mainly because of a 2.7 % rise in automotive fuels prices. Actual inflation in April exceeded market forecasts. Net inflation, still observed by the CNB, reached +0.4 % in monthly terms and +3.3 % in year-on-year terms. The central bank forecasts headline inflation to be 3.3 - 4.4 % and targets net inflation at 2.0-4.0 % at the end of this year.

The central bank said the latest inflation data would not change its inflation or macroeconomic outlook. Vice-governor Oldrich Dedek argued that "The quickening of price growth is not in the general character of price movement, and moreover was concentrated in traditionally volatile areas of the (inflation) basket". The central bank's board met on Thursday but decisions on rates were not on the agenda. The next monthly monetary policy meeting is scheduled for May 31. Most analysts share the view that the central bank is unlikely to react to current changes in food and energy costs. On the other hand, analysts differ on interest rate outlook for the end of the year. Some predict a hike due to domestic inflationary pressures, others expect a cut if the European Central Bank eased markedly…

The Czech crown tracked the EUR/USD on Thursday. CZK briefly dipped as the EUR firmed vs. USD after the ECB´s surprising rate cut by 25bps, but then regained ground when the euro lost against the dollar. In late trading, the CZK/EUR stood at 34.38/40 from 34.41/44 late on Wednesday. Against the dollar, the crown stood at 38.92/95 from Wednesday's 38.96/99. The currency did not react to Czech April inflation data.

Bonds dipped after the release of the inflation data but rebounded quickly and rose well above opening levels. The state 6.40/10 bond was up 60bps, the longest state 6.95/16 bond was up 55 points at 104.70/00, yield at 6.44/41 %, the state 6.75/05 bond was up 25 points at 104.05/35, yielding 5.52/43 %.

late May 10 bond yield late May 9
State 6.75/05104.05/355.52/43103.80/10
State 6.95/16104.70/006.44/41104.15/45

(Martin Kupka)

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