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Croatia's December unemployment reading brought no surprises, confirming weak momentum reinforced by the seasonal pattern. The figure hit the 21.2% mark, the highest level since early 2003, and is currently heading for 2.3pp y/y (2.2pp seasonally adjusted), confirming the intensified deterioration of labor market conditions since 3Q12. The average 2012 unemployment rate stands 1.2bp higher vs. the 2011 figure and aligns with our 15% forecast for 2012 for the LFS unemployment rate. Trends are also set to remain adverse in the coming quarters, as the weak economy fails to support stabilization, which we do not see as likely before 2H14. As for next week, the CBS should publish the December trade balance and industrial production figures, thus practically rounding up the monthly indicators list for 4Q. Thus far, the indicators suggest ongoing suppressed industrial production and private consumption performance, while the trade balance figures somewhat outperformed expectations on the exports side. We see the 4Q figure remaining in the region of around -2% y/y and similar for the FY12 level.
The bond market showed some mixed performance, as Eurobond yields were generally up to 25bp higher, while domestic ones advanced further down about 10bp. Still, bond performance remains strong and yields below the levels seen prior to the S&P rating cut in December, thus suggesting that the MoF remains in position to tap the markets and remove a great deal of 2013s financing risks early in the year.
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