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Czech Watch - 21 March 2001

21.3.2001 8:30
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CNB announced that Czech foreign exchange reserves rose by 0.819bn in 2000. The increase was owing to a higher financial account surplus than current account deficit (USD +3.359bn comp. to USD –2.369bn). In 1999, F/A surplus amounted to USD +3.080bn and C/A deficit was USD -1.567bn.

The key items in the balance of payments in 2000 were, similarly to the previous year, trade balance and foreign direct investment inflow. While foreign trade balance deficit expanded by 73 % to USD -3.285bn in 2000, FDI inflow shrank by 27 % to USD +4.595bn. Despite the negative development of both indicators, FDI inflow was still able to cover widening gap between total imports and total exports comfortably.

The annual worsening of C/A deficit would be higher without a growing service balance surplus that traditionally helps improve Czech C/A balance. Service balance surplus increased by 27 % in 2000 up to USD +1.396bn. On the F/A side, the overall balance improved year-on-year first of all owing to a dramatic improvement of the “other investment” balance, namely the switch of the asset-related flows from a USD –2.638bn outflow in 1999 to a USD +0.929bn inflow in 2000. The improvement concerned both long-term assets and short-term assets. Contrary to the asset-related flows, liability-related flows contributed negatively to the annual development of the F/A. Portfolio investments showed a deficit higher by 27 % in 2000 compared to 1999 due mainly to stronger appetite of domestic investors for foreign fixed-income instruments.

According to CNB Governor, Zdenek Tuma, Czech central bank sees no reason to change its forecasts based on the published C/A results.

The National Property Fund (NPF, the Czech government's privatisation agency) picked advisers on the sale of the country's electricity and gas industries. A consortium of Deloitte and Touche and N.M. Rothschild and Sons Ltd. was selected for the sale of a majority stake in CEZ and six power distributing companies. A consortium of Salomon Brothers International Ltd and Citibank was picked for advising on the sale of monopoly natural gas importer Transgas and eight regional distributing firms. "Both advisers will take on their duties in the nearest possible time, immediately after signing relevant contracts," the NPF said.

Czech crown was trading free of large fluctuations after the balance of payments results were announced on Tuesday morning. CZK exchange rate is driven by EUR/USD development and the only domestic events that could have a stronger impact on CZK are GDP results for 2000 and foreign trade results for this February, both to be published next Thursday.

Bond prices do not show a clear trend, but dealers believe that price falls are more likely than increases in near perspective. Similarly to the FOREX market, statistical data to be published on Thursday can matter.

late March 20 bond yield late March 19
CZK/EUR34.56/60-34.54/59
CZK/USD38.27/30-38.22/25
State 6.75/05103.35/655.76/68103.35/65
State 6.95/16103.70/006.55/52104.00/30

(Martin Kupka)

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