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Czech Watch – 4 May 2001

4.5.2001 10:30

Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy will be dismissed and replaced by his current deputy Jaroslav Tvrdik on Friday afternoon. Vetchy's departure has been speculated about for several months. Vetchy failed to prepare and implement a reform of the sector's economic management, which has already started to paralyse the operation of the army. Tvrdik, a former career officer, was appointed Vetchy's deputy at the end of 2000. Shortly after that he joined the CSSD. President Havel also received Zeman's request to appoint Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr deputy Prime Minister.

The Czech National Bank’s new GDP growth forecast for 2001 is 2.3-3.3 %, while next year the growth should accelerate to 2.4-4.4 %. Czech economic performance should gradually come close to the potential GDP growth, but it is unlikely to catch up with the latter in 2002. This development does not suggest accelerating inflationary pressures, the CNB said. The central bank's previous forecast expected a 1.7-3.7 % GDP growth in 2001. CNB´s latest forecast is less optimistic than that of most Czech institutions and politicians, but closer to predictions of international institutions. The OECD or the IMF, for instance, both expect Czech GDP to grow by 3.0 % in 2001. The relatively cautious forecast of the central bank is due to the expected slowdown in the countries of the Czech Republic's key trading partners. CNB has also revised down its forecast of the current account (CA) deficit in terms of GDP to 5.0 % for 2001 and to 5.1 % for 2002. Despite the adverse development on the CA, the CNB expects the crown's rate to remain stable, as foreign direct investment inflow should act in the opposite direction. CNB also slightly lowered its inflation forecast for December 2001 from 3.6-4.8 % to 3.3-4.4 % year-on-year, and expects a moderate price growth equal to 3.4-4.8 % at end-September 2002. CNB assumes that the economic slowdown in the U.S. and in the EU will translate into a slower growth in fuels prices, which should be very moderate in 2001 and 2002. Food prices and regulated prices, on the contrary, should grow faster, although this increase should not bring any considerable inflationary pressures either.

The book value of Transgas transferred on Wednesday from the Ministry of Industry and Trade to the National Property Fund (FNM) was CZK 40.8bn, FNM spokeswoman Jana Viskova told CTK. The new joint-stock company will actually emerge after its entry into the Company Register. The privatization of the joint stock company Transgas a.s. should take place in a few months after the adviser for the gas sector sale is selected, Deputy Industry Minister Frantisek Kubelka has said. He refused to estimate a revenue the state could get from the sale of Transgas a.s.

The Czech crown spent the entire Thursday’s session at 34.58-34.66 CZK/EUR and closed at 34.60/64, weaker than on Wednesday. Against the USD, CZK strengthened to CZK 38.73/77 from 38.84/88 on Wednesday. The crown did not react to the release of fresh CNB´s macroeconomic forecasts.

Prices of most bonds slid, traded volumes were below average. The bad result of a Treasury bill auction where supply surpassed demand by nearly CZK 3bn cooled market optimism in the afternoon. The longest state bond 6.95/16 lost 17bps from Wednesday's close to 103.88/18, yielding 6.53/50 %. The state 6.75/05 dipped 6bps to 103.84/14, yielding 5.55/50 %.

late May 3 bond yield late May 2
State 6.75/05103.84/145.55/50103.90/20
State 6.95/16103.88/186.53/50104.05/35

(Martin Kupka)

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