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Czech Watch – 27 April 2001

27.4.2001 9:00

ČNB Governor Zdeněk Tůma said that the central bank would release forecast for inflation four to six quarters from now next Thursday. "The transmission (lag) of monetary policy is roughly four to six quarters, we will be working in roughly this horizon," explained Tůma. The new system follows the introduction of a rolling inflation target, which plans inflation gradually falling from 3-5 % in January 2002 to 2-4 % in December 2005. Tůma also said that ČNB would publish scenarios for the developments of variables relevant for actual inflation like the exchange rate, government-regulated prices, indirect taxes or commodity prices. Under the new inflation targeting method ČBN will take into account the impact of swings in those external factors on inflation when checking consistency of actual price development with its target. Tůma promised that the central bank would also release new GDP growth forecast for 2002 next week, expected to be above the previous prediction of 1.7 to 3.7 %.

Top leaders of ČSSD denied Petr Pithart´s statement that agreement had been reached in the Parliament on Wednesday on the wording of a new election bill. ČSSD deputies' group head Zdeněk Škromach denied such an agreement. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross (ČSSD), who is in charge of preparing the bill, said he did not consider the Wednesday meeting's outcome binding. Neither Vladimír Špidla admitted existence of a deal. According to Pithart, the deal was supported by representatives of all parliamentary groups except for ODS and solved all so far controversial issues including an election vote counting method or threshold for coalitions' entry into parliament.

Investments into Czech industry fell by 2.1 % year-on-year in 2000 to CZK 168.6bn, of which CZK 56bn were foreign investments. In contrast, investments into machinery in the manufacturing industry, the most important industrial branch, rose by 6.4 % to CZK 84.1bn. The biggest purchases of machinery were made by the producers of vehicles (CZK 24bn), electrical machines and optical instruments (CZK 10.4bn) and by metal processors (CZK 8.4bn). Tangible investments into machinery and equipment grew by 1 % to CZK 108.2bn, while construction investments fell by nearly 10 % to CZK 47.5bn. Electricity producers and distributors invested CZK 19.2bn into machinery, almost 25 % less than in 1999.

The largest Czech steel producer Nová huť made a preliminary loss of CZK 644m on revenues of CZK 29.1bn in 2000, compared to a loss of CZK 4.7bn on revenues of CZK 25.6bn in 1999. The operating loss of CZK 2.3bn in 1999 turned into operating profit of CZK 338m in 2000. Nová huť used only some 85 % of its production capacity during the whole of the first quarter 2000 because of the lack of money.

The Czech crown traded in a narrow range on Thursday, remaining near two-week lows reached in the previous session. The central bank's decision to keep interest rates unchanged had been anticipated by the market and had no impact. Late on Thursday the crown stood at 34.63/64 to the euro, flat from late Wednesday. CZK/USD strengthened to 38.41/44 from Wednesday's 38.63/66.

The longest state 6.95/16 bond firmed 20bps to 105.50/80, yielding 6.36/33 %. The state 6.75/05 flat at 104.35/65, yielding 5.44/35 %. Prague sold 10-year bonds worth a total of CZK5bn. The nominal worth of the bonds is CZK 1m. The first part of the issue, worth CZK 2bn, contains bonds with a fixed coupon of 6.85 %. The coupon of the second part of the issue, worth CZK 3bn, is variable and stands at 0.32 percentage points above the PRIBOR6M rate. The bonds were sold out in an hour with 10-15 % of the demand coming from abroad. The city intends to use the proceeds of the issue for the purchase of new carriages for Prague's subway and for the construction of a ring road. The total obligations of the city of Prague now amount to some CZK 23bn.

late April 26 bond yield late April 25
State 6.75/05104.35/655.44/35104.35/65
State 6.95/16105.50/806.36/33105.30/60

(Martin Kupka)

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