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Czech Watch - 2 April 2001

2.4.2001 9:16

The Four Coalition (4K) introduced its shadow cabinet that would have 16 members with KDÚ-ČSL holding 8 posts, the Freedom Union 5, the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) 2 and the Democratic Union (DEU) one. The 4K also has a new leader, Karel Kuehnl (FU), who replaced Cyril Svoboda (KDÚ-ČSL). Mr. Svoboda resigned because his actual authority to shape the shadow cabinet proved to be too small. Namely, he did not succeed in elimination of his party fellow, the controversial Miroslav Kalousek (also KDU-CSL) out from the list of shadow ministers. The 4K shadow cabinet will have three deputy chairmen: Jaroslav Kopřiva for the Christian Democrats, Michael Žantovský for the ODA and Ratibor Majzlík for the DEU.

Czech officials have closed two more chapters (on the free movement of services and on the rights of companies; 15 to date) in the EU negotiation process in Brussels. Progress has been made on the energy chapter after Austria agreed to the EU's joint approval of the Melk process. EU accepted the Czech requirement for extending the transition period to create a 90-day state oil reserve until December 31, 2005. The Czech Republic has already withdrawn its request for a transition period for energy price liberalization earlier this year. On the other hand, Prague continues to ask for a transition period for oil price deregulation. Czech Chief negotiator, Pavel Telicka told reporters that he hopes to have closed 20 of 30 Chapters by October.

Money supply (M2) growth in the Czech Republic decelerated to 7.8 % y-on-y in February from 9.0 % in January. Outstanding client loans provided by commercial banks and ČNB fell 3.8 %, while total crown and foreign currency deposits in commercial banks rose 8.7 % y-on-y.

Public finance deficit should fall from the peak of 9.4 % of GDP in 2001 down to 4.4 % of GDP in 2004, while the public debt in terms of GDP is, on the contrary, projected to increase from 20.5 % this year up to 30.6 % in 2004. The ratios are part of a Pre-accession Economic Program prepared by the MoF to be submitted to the cabinet. The final version of the Program should then arrive at the European Commission by the end of April.

Shares on the Prague Stock Exchange closed last week at this year's new low of 425.5 pts. Český Telecom lost 4.86 pct following a wave of sell-offs and its new share price CZK 365.6 was the lowest for more than 12 months. Other prominent losers of the day were Unipetrol and Komerční banka.

The Czech crown fell to its two-week lows on continuing poor market sentiment on Friday, following a mid-week downgrade by Fitch, fears of ČNB intervention, and confirmed loss of interest by KPN to participate in Czech Telecom privatization. Late on Friday the CZK/EUR was trading at 34.55/58 from 34.46/50 late Thursday. The CZK/USD was up at 39.31/34 from 39.04/05 late Thursday.

Bonds also weakened on Friday. The longest state 6.95/16 bond was down 25 points from late Thursday at 106.40/70, yielding 6.27/24 %. State 6.75/05 down 13 points at 104.07/37, yielding 5.55/46 %.

late March 30 bond yield late March 29
State 6.75/05104.07/375.55/46104.20/50
State 6.95/16106.40/706.27/24106.65/95

(Martin Kupka)

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