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Czech Watch - 21 July 2000

21.7.2000 8:50

Today's buzzword may be transparency. That's how the National Property Fund is going to pay for its maturing bonds via a loan from Konsolidacni banka (KoB). Bonds are not publicly traded and are held by, yes, KoB. The NPF should have had some money from the privatization sales, but there is a delay, as the Cabinet and Erste have to clarify the settlement conditions for the Erste's payment for Ceska sporitelna… Muddle as usual.
After two years of governing, the Cabinet may see its third member accused of improper dealings. After the minister of finance and a vice prime minister had to leave the Cabinet and are investigated by the police, it is the minister of agriculture who is charged with shadow deals regarding his role in privatization (the first completed privatization of the current government) of an agriculture firm in 1999. The minister refuses any comments, so transparency is further enhanced.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade published its analysis of the energy sector liberalization on unemployment. Not surprisingly, it finds that energy forms (mines above all) will have to shed labor. It does suggest, though, a list of purely administrative ways how to deal with rising unemployment (higher public spending, some re-qualification…) and does not think about anything as courageous as tax breaks for entrepreneurs. The ministry clearly does not want to be blamed for rising unemployment once power sector is liberalized.
The Czech koruna was jittery yesterday, as fears of a CNB intervention were supplemented by the bank board meeting. Indeed, at noon, koruna began to weaken dramatically, falling from 35.70 CZK/EUR to 35.85 CZK/EUR. However, it quickly became clear that there is no support for this level and the koruna recovered to 35.75 CZK/EUR. At the end of trading, the koruna closed at 35.8 CZK/USD, still significantly lower than its opening level of 35.70 CZK/EUR. Following the Alan Greenspan's comments in the US Congress, the dollar weakened a bit against the euro (from 0.92 to 0.93 USD/EUR) and thus the koruna lost less against the dollar - it now trades at around 38.40 CZK/USD.
Czech bonds were bearish Thursday morning, however they found some support levels during the day, as the afternoon was more in a bullish mood. Especially MoF 6.30/07 strengthened significantly after the morning fall, as one of the market makers was buying quite large amount of the paper. We suppose Friday to be more a quite, rather bullish day.
Current benchmark prices: MoF 6.75/05 99.60-90 (+5 bps), MoF 6.30/07 96.20-50 (+20 bps), MoF 6.40/10 95.80-10 (-10 bps).

(Ondrej Schneider and Dalimil Vyskovsky)

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