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Czech Watch - 30 March 2001

30.03.2001 9:51

Deputy Finance Minister Jan Mládek announced that MoF was going to submit a draft amendment to the central bank law to the government next month, in order to dispel EU concerns that the current law threatens ČNB´s independence. Mládek conceded that the Czech Republic had no choice but to change the law if the ongoing EU admission negotiations were not to be negatively burdened.

The ČNB board left interest rates unchanged because it identified no new inflationary pressures. ČNB Vice-Governor Luděk Niedermayer said that while the stronger than expected growth had boosted CZK, it has not yet pushed inflation up. Niedermayer also remarked that despite recent CZK strength against the EUR, ČNB did not intervene against local currency. But "The large privatization should be done in a way that will not lead to a (further) strengthening of the crown," quoted Reuters Niedermayer´s warning.

The ČNB discussed its 2002 inflation target but – for the time being -without coming to a decision. Niedermayer said the CNB would submit its proposal to the Finance Ministry soon. The ministry then presents its view to the government on the advice of the ČNB. Niedemayer predicts that an agreement with the government on the inflation target (indispensable by the current law on the central bank) is going to be achieved without major friction. A strong motive for the agreement appears to be factual: according to Niedermayer, if inflation is not to accelerate, a possible inflation target range for 2002 remains narrow. ČNB declares its 2002 inflation target on April 12. For 2001, the target is 2-4 %. For 2005, long-term monetary strategy endorsed also by the government, calls for net inflation between 1 and 3 %. In addition, ČNB considers whether net inflation targeting should be also in the future preferred to headline inflation targeting or if and why a short-term inflation target horizon is preferable to a long-term one.

Česká pojišťovna (ČP) is going to get a majority stake (78 %) in První městská banka (PMB), the Prague municipal bank. In a tender organized by the Prague City Hall, ČP bet the consortia of Dexia/Kommunalkredit Austria and Poštovní banka/Czech Property Investment. The capital of PMB is CZK 626.5m.

The Czech crown was volatile on Thursday but against EUR closed just slightly below its level of late Wednesday. The loss remained quite small mainly owing to the European Central Bank's (ECB) decision not to cut interest rates, which pushed the euro to its bottom level of 0.88 against the dollar. Dealers predict a nervous market also in the coming days. Against the USD, CZK hit a 14-week low. The decision of the ČNB´s board meeting not to touch key interest rates had no effect on trading.

The longest state bond 6.95/16 fell 105 points from late Wednesday to 106.65/95, yielding 6.25/22 %. State 6.75/05 lost 30 points, yielding 5.51/43 %. The main reason for the fall of bond prices was the decision of both the ČNB and ECB to leave key interest rates unchanged.

late March 29 bond yield late March 28
State 6.75/05104.20/505.51/43104.50/80
State 6.95/16106.65/956.25/22107.70/00

(Martin Kupka)

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