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CEE MARKETS-Crown firms, market awaits central bank comments

* Crown firms, Czech central bank comments in focus

* Prospect of more CNB rate hikes seen supporting crown

* Hungarian bond auction seen drawing demand, yields steady

BUDAPEST, March 29 (Reuters) - The crown firmed slightly, bucking a trend of easing of Central European currencies, amid positioning ahead of the Czech central bank's (CNB) meeting later on Thursday. The CNB, which has raised interest rates three times since August last year, is expected to keep them on hold on Thursday in its decision due at 1100 GMT. Comments from CNB Governor Jiri Rusnok starting from 1215 GMT will be closely watched as a retreat in inflation rates in most of the region in February has triggered some expectations for a shift towards a less hawkish rhetoric. Expectations for further monetary tightening, along with the region's robust wage and output growth, have been a key factor to buoy the crown. Foreign investors poured funds worth tens of billions of euros into crown assets before the CNB removed a cap on the currency a year ago, letting it firm beyond 27 against the euro. The Czech currency traded at 25.435 to the euro at 0824 GMT, less than 0.1 percent firmer, while the forint , the zloty and the leu eased slightly. The currency has been hovering around 25.435 since the publication of February inflation figures in the region. The proportion of foreigners' holding Czech state domestic bonds was almost steady at 37.72 percent in February according to fresh figures, which showed they do not rush to close their positions. "We estimate two more (interest rate) hikes this year due to insufficient strengthening of the Czech koruna (crown)," Raiffeisen analyst Milan Frydrych said in a note, adding though that he did not expect the CNB to change its stance at the meeting. Czech government bonds mostly moved sideways. Hungarian bonds also took a breath after firming in the past two days which left their yield curve flatter. The government bi-weekly government bond auctions, however, are expected to draw solid demand. "The shorter maturities on offer are likely to get absorbed and investors like pension funds will queue up for it," one Budapest-based fixed income trader said. Hungary's and Poland's 10-year government bond yields are expected to rise by 40-50 basis points in the next 12 months, tracking Bunds and U.S. yields, a Reuters poll of 17 analysts showed on Thursday.

CEE SNAPSHOT AT MARKETS 1024 CET

CURRENCI ES

Latest Previous Daily Change bid close change in 2018 Czech <EURCZK= 25.4350 25.4510 +0.06% +0.42% crown > Hungary <EURHUF= 312.5000 312.2700 -0.07% -0.51% forint > Polish <EURPLN= 4.2058 4.2035 -0.05% -0.70% zloty > Romanian <EURRON= 4.6570 4.6525 -0.10% +0.49% leu > Croatian <EURHRK= 7.4300 7.4425 +0.17% +0.00% kuna > Serbian <EURRSD= 118.4000 118.5600 +0.14% +0.08% dinar > Note: calculated from 1800 CET

daily change

Latest Previous Daily Change close change in 2018 Prague 1122.77 1119.050 +0.33% +4.14%

0

Budapest 37178.34 36783.31 +1.07% -5.58% Warsaw 2216.26 2203.70 +0.57% -9.95% Bucharest 8716.95 8726.88 -0.11% +12.42% Ljubljana <.SBITOP 822.19 821.53 +0.08% +1.96% > Zagreb 1811.08 1813.98 -0.16% -1.73% Belgrade <.BELEX1 745.39 746.10 -0.10% -1.90%

5>

Sofia 653.64 654.09 -0.07% -3.51%

BONDS

Yield Yield Spread Daily (bid) change vs Bund change

in

Czech spread

Republic

2-year <CZ2YT=R 0.8210 0.0960 +141bps +10bps

R>

5-year <CZ5YT=R 1.2880 0.0020 +138bps +0bps

R>

10-year <CZ10YT= 1.9030 -0.0040 +140bps -1bps

RR> Poland

2-year <PL2YT=R 1.5090 -0.0100 +210bps -1bps

R>

5-year <PL5YT=R 2.3790 -0.0080 +248bps -1bps

R>

10-year <PL10YT= 3.2260 0.0070 +273bps +0bps

RR>

FORWARD RATE AGREEMEN

T

3x6 6x9 9x12 3M

interban k

Czech Rep 0.98 1.08 1.23 0.90

<PRIBOR=

>

Hungary 0.07 0.10 0.18 0.03 Poland 1.73 1.74 1.77 1.70

Note: FRA are for ask prices quotes

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(Reporting by Sandor Peto Editing by Edmund Blair)