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Czech Watch - 13 April 2001

13.4.2001 10:34

Jiří Rusnok, Deputy Labour and Social Affairs minister, will replace outgoing Finance Minister Pavel Mertlík. Premier Zeman said he had not yet nominated a new vice-premier, a post also previously held by Mertlík. Havel accepted Mertlík's resignation as finance minister and deputy premier for economy. Mertlík said that he was convinced that Rusnok would ensure continuity in the Finance Ministry's policies and that in the current situation, the country could not wish for a better finance minister. Rusnok reassured investors that privatization would continue and that he would keep public finances tight. Jiří Rusnok, formerly a trade union executive, has helped to reshape the Czech pension system under the recently elected ČSSD leader Vladimír Špidla. - The Bank Board of the ČNB made no monetary decisions at its regular session on Thursday. The Bank Board last cut rates at its session on February 22, when the key two-week repo rate went down from 5.25 to 5.00 %, the discount rate from 5.0 to 4.0 %, and the Lombard rate from 7.5 to 6.0 %. Also yesterday, deputies in the Parliament were informed about the ČNB´s “Report on the monetary development in 2000”. During the debate, ČNB Governor Zdeněk Tůma mentioned rising commodity prices and growing public finance deficit as primary inflationary risks perceived by the ČNB last year.

Industrial producer prices (IPP) rose 0.1% month-on-month and 4.1% year-on-year in March. In February, their y-y growth was +4.7 %. Agricultural producers prices (APP) jumped 0.3 % m-m, due to a remarkable increase in non-meat products. In y-y terms, APP rose +11.9 %. Prices of construction works increased 0.3 % m-m in March and their y-y growth rate was 4.7 %. The negative impact of high oil prices on IPP appears is fading away, attention of analysts switches toward APP prices.

A survey sponsored by Labor and Social Affairs Ministry shows that some 150-200 thousand Czechs are considering going to work abroad in the next five years and about 70 % of them into EU countries. Almost half of the above people are under 25. Most of those considering leaving would prefer staying abroad for one to three years. One third of potential Czech workers in the EU would choose Germany, and a mere 5 percent Austria.

CzechInvest Agency attracted USD 102m of foreign direct investment to the Czech Republic in 2001Q1 compared to USD482m in 2000Q1. According to CzechInvest, the decrease reflects primarily last year's project of Philips, which alone committed itself to invest USD 200m.

The Czech crown firmed on Thursday after the naming of Jiří Rusnok to the post of Finance Minister. Late on Thursday CZK was trading at 34.48/51 to EUR from late Wednesday's level of 34.55/58. The crown/dollar was at 38.67/70 from 39.93/96 late Wednesday. Also significantly better than expected PPI figures supported CZK. The crown is expected to stay steady through the Easter holiday.

The longest state 6.95/16 bond was up 50 basis points to 106.25/55 yielding 6.28/25. The state 6.75/05 up 15 points to 104.35/65, yielding 5.45/37.

late April 12 bond yield late April 11
State 6.75/05104.35/655.45/37104.20/50
State 6.95/16106.25/556.28/25105.75/05

(Martin Kupka)

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