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Czech Watch - 14 March 2001

14.3.2001 9:06

Czech industrial output jumped 13.8 % in January after a mere 1.4 % rise in December. Market expected only a 7.6 % growth. The jump was the highest since economic recovery begun in 1999. Seasonally-adjusted industrial output was only slightly lower, +11.5 %. The growth was driven by export-oriented industries of electrical and optical equipment (+50.2 %), transport vehicles (+36.4 %), and machine tools (+27,3 %).

Industrial producer prices showed a 0.9 % month-on-month increase in February, after +0.4 % rise in January. The market forecast (+0.2 %) was considerably below the actual figure. Higher oil prices filtering through industries are widely suspected to be the principal reason for surprising price growth acceleration. Besides the oil price impact, the February PPI rise appears to be further supported by annual repricing, which takes place during the first weeks of the new calendar year. High PPI growth in February January significantly decreases probability of yet another interest rate cut by the CNB that would follow a surprising 25 % lowering of the key two-week repo rate last month.

Central bank board member Pavel Stepanek said in an interview with CTK that Czech republic's deepening fiscal deficit does not threaten macroeconomic stability in the short term (this year and 2002). At the same time, Mr. Stepanek repeated CNB stance that the imbalance is a significant risk in the longer run. In this context, Mr. Stepanek warned against potential additional fiscal stimuli. He was thereby referring to a plan by the Industry and Trade Ministry to pump billions of crowns into the economy to boost growth.

Regarding the ongoing internal CNB discussion on a possible switch from targeting net inflation to targeting headline consumer prices, Mr. Stepanek. said he could imagine replacing inflation with the headline CPI but added it was not clear whether the change could be done as soon as to shape already the 2002 target (to be announced in April).

Much higher-than-expected February producer price data sent a shiver through the bond market. Bonds fell with the 6.95/16 down 45 points with yield moving to 6.25/23 from 6.22/19. The Czech crown was boosted by the euro's fall against the dollar and closed firmer on Tuesday. Late on Tuesday the crown was at a three-week high of 34.55/59 to the euro from the morning's 34.67/70 and from 34.63/65 late Monday. CZK weakened vis-a-vis USD to 37.63/66 from the morning's 37.38/42 and from Monday's 37.28/31. CZK, driven mostly by euro/dollar movements and steady inflow of foreign direct capital, ignored both surprising industrial producer price jump in February and fast industrial output rise in January.

Unlike crown, bonds fell after PPI figures. The longest state 6.95/16 lost 90 basis points from Monday to 106.00/30, yielding 6.31/28 %. The state 6.75/05 fell 60 points to 103.70/00, yielding 5.67/58 %.

(Martin Kupka)

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