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Czech Watch - 8 March 2001

8.3.2001 8:48

The Czech Statistical Office will release February’s inflation figures. We expect CPI to be 0.0%, m-o-m, and 4.0%, y-o-y. Labor Ministry will announce the rate of unemployment by the end of February. Our forecast point to 9.0%.

The Czech government approved a draft law on Wednesday which would replace the current system of government rent controls from 2002, but still keep a lid on the growth of housing costs. Under the new law, which must be approved by parliament, the government would cease to decree maximum rents and will only be an arbitrator in cases when tenants and house owners fail to agree on rents. But Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik said the law would at the same time keep maximum annual increases in currently regulated rents at 10 percent, removing fears of a sharp jump in housing costs after the new year. Regional Development Minister Petr Lachnit told he believed that under the proposed law, regulated and free market rates would reach the same level in about 10 years.

The Czech government said on Wednesday it had agreed to grant incentives to IBM to invest CZK 359 million (USD9.6 million) in an information technology service centre in the Czech Republic. The centre will be built in the second Czech city of Brno and create 200 new jobs. The European Commission on Wednesday mapped out five options for tackling the politically sensitive issue of free movement for workers from the former communist bloc after enlargement of the European Union. In a paper due to be circulated among the 15 member states, the EU's executive arm said the impact of migration from the poorer east would be much weaker than some EU governments feared. Germany, anticipating a big influx of cheap labour from its eastern neighbours, has called for a seven-year delay in opening up the EU's jobs market after enlargement.

The Czech koruna touched both six-week lows and this week's high on Wednesday before closing virtually unchanged to the euro, mirroring euro/dollar movements. The currency touched of 34.93 to the euro -- level which had held in past days -- in early trading, but regrouped on euro/dollar weakness to a day's high of 34.73. It fell back to 34.78/81 in late trading, flat from late Tuesday. Koruna/dollar fell to 37.50/53 from the morning's 37.30/39 and from 37.38/41 late on Tuesday.

Bonds were up. The longest state 6.95/16 rose 40 basis points from late Tuesday to an all-time high of 106.40/70, yielding 6.27/24 percent. The state 6.75/05 rose 20 points to 104.00/30, yielding 5.59/50 percent.

(David Marek)

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