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Czech Watch - 10 January 2001

10.1.2001 9:00

Consumer price index in December rose by 0.2% month-on-month and grew by 4.0% year-on-year. Inflation figures are in line with market expectations and thus market reaction should be relatively small. The main driving factors were leisure prices (0.9%) and food prices (0.6%). On the other hand, transport prices dropped by 1.0% mainly due to a decrease of fuel prices by 2.6%. For the end of this year we expect that the inflation rate should reach 4.5%. Price development in December confirmed a low-inflationary development of the Czech economy. No inflationary threats from the acceleration of the economic growth are visible so far. Thus, I do not expect any change of current monetary policy stance in the first half of the year. However, it could come in later this year. It will depend on a new inflation target for 2002, that is going to be chosen in April this year, and a development of inflationary factors in next months.

The rate of unemployment increased by 0.3% to 8.8% by the end of December. Compared to December 1999, the rate of unemployment dropped by 0.6%. As winter months come the unemployment rises affected by closing seasonal jobs in agriculture and construction. So, the increase of the rate of unemployment does not suggest a turnover towards tightening conditions in the labour market.

Czech state television officials on Tuesday said they were ending blacking out news broadcasts produced by journalists protesting the appointment of a new director, handing a key victory to the protesters. The European Commission said on Tuesday it regretted disruption to state-run Czech Television and voiced hope for a prompt solution to the conflict convulsing the network.

The Czech koruna rose from a near two-and-a-half-month low against the euro, as yesterday's consumer price report showed that inflation is still in check while the economy continues to grow. The koruna rose to 34.99 to the euro from 35.17 in yesterday's late trading. The koruna/dollar exchange rate stood at 37.24 from 37.33 in the yesterday‘s morning and 37.10 late Monday.

Bond market was unusually quiet on Tuesday. Prices eased after CPI data, however surprisingly recovered during the day. Not much trades have been done, some morning sell-offs on MoF 6.40/10, late afternoon buys on corporates and longest governments were actually the only ones. We remain bearish, and recommend range trading.

Current benchmark prices: MoF 6.75/05 101.00-30 (+10 bps), MoF 6.30/07 97.30-60 (+10 bps), MoF 6.40/10 96.30-60 (+5 bps).

(David Marek)

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