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Czech Watch – 18 April 2001

18.04.2001 9:00

IMF said in a report that it expected the Czech economy to grow by around 3 % this year, with no inflationary pressures knocking on the door. The fund said the central bank should retain its current accommodative policy stance, and reiterated its previous warnings on threats arising from deteriorating fiscal balance. The report argued that economic growth could accelerate in 2002, especially if the global environment improves. It said the central bank should stand ready to adjust rates in either direction to respond to domestic and external demand developments. The IMF also believes that the current strength of the Czech currency does not pose a threat to external competitiveness of Czech businesses.

The Czech Finance Ministry will propose spending cuts to this year's central government budget. Deputy Finance Minister Eduard Janota expects budget revenues to fall some 10 -15 billion crowns short of the expected CZK 636bn. Janota did not specify the extent of the proposed cuts, which the ministry sees in both investment and operating expenditures, but said the government would address the issue either this week or in two weeks' time.

Premier Miloš Zeman announced on Tuesday that the Czech government would try to resuscitate ailing firms held by Konsolidační banka (KoB) instead of selling their doubtful assets for low prices. "We want to concentrate on capitalizing the debts, which means there will actually be a re-privatization of these companies - the often fictitious or formal owners will be replaced with real ones," added Prime Minister.

Retail sales fell 1 % in real terms year-on-year in February. Part of the decline was due to a lower number of workdays in 2001 (-1 day). Fuel sales dropped more than 10 %, food sales also shrank. In contrast, transport sales rose 9.5 % year-on-year, telecom sales jumped 10.9 % and data processing boomed with a 12.9 % year-on-year growth rate.

The Czech crown firmed slightly owing to lower-than-expected February retail sales data and euro weakness against the dollar. Late in the evening CZK was trading at 34.42/47 to EUR from 34.46/51 late Friday. The market was closed on Monday for the Easter holiday. The crown/dollar was at 39.02/05 from 38.72/75 late Friday. The main influence on the currency was a 1 % slump by the euro against the dollar and yen. A 1.0 % year-on-year drop in February retail sales confirmed weak inflationary pressures. Dealers said Reuters that they expected CZK to trade in a narrow range of 34.35-50 against EUR on Wednesday.

The longest state 6.95/16 bond continued to ease, losing 45bps on the day to 105.30/60, yielding 6.38/35 %. The state 6.75/05 bond lost 5bps to 104.30/60, yielding 5.47/38 %.

late April 17 bond yield late April 13
State 6.75/05104.30/605.47/38104.35/65
State 6.95/16105.30/606.38/35105.75/05

(Martin Kupka)

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