Financial Beat

Stocks, Taxes, Travel, Home Loans


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Jump to:Choose article section...Stocks: Should you trust the analysts? Taxes: Don't rely on the IRS for help Travel: You've got mail at 40,000 feet Home Loans: Need help comparing mortgage costs? Closing costs on $125,000 loan

By Yvonne Chilik Wollenberg

Stocks: Should you trust the analysts?

You would have been better off last year doing the opposite of what Wall Street analysts recommended. Stocks that they favored in 2000 fared poorly, while those that they reviewed negatively outperformed the market, according to a new study. The most highly recommended securities returned 31 percent less than the market's average performance, while the least favorably recommended stocks gained almost 49 percent more than the overall market. Despite Wall Street's dismal returns last year, fewer than 2 percent of analysts' tips were to sell, a decrease from 3.4 percent in 1996.

The study examined recommendations by analysts at 299 brokerages from 1996 through 2000. While analysts' picks outperformed their pans from 1996 through 1999, the trend reversed itself last year. The study was co-authored by faculty at the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley, the University of California-Davis, and Stanford University.

Taxes: Don't rely on the IRS for help

Investigators looking for advice at Internal Revenue Service walk-in centers got insufficient or wrong answers nearly three-quarters of the time, says the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Auditors paid 83 visits to 47 IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers around the country early this year and got wrong answers to questions in 41 visits and insufficient answers in 20 visits. One wrong answer concerning capital gains taxes would have cost the auditor $4,000 in taxes he didn't have to pay.

Travel: You've got mail at 40,000 feet

You'll soon be able to go online while flying. So far, 10 airlines have signed on with two services that plan to roll out airborne Internet service next year. You'll be able to plug your laptop or handheld into a seat-back port that connects you to the Internet throughout your flight.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Lufthansa have signed on with Boeing's Connexion service, which will offer real-time Internet access and live TV via satellite, beginning in 2002. The price of the service has not been announced.

Virgin Atlantic Airways, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific Airways, Singapore Airlines, SAS, and VARIG plan to offer a slightly different service provided by Tenzing Communications. Tenzing will offer e-mail access, but it pre-loads popular Web pages on its onboard server, updating the information regularly. The service will be available next year and is expected to cost $4.95 for unlimited access, plus about 50 cents for each page of text read or sent.

Home Loans: Need help comparing mortgage costs?

Mortgage shoppers often have trouble comparing loans because no uniform labels exist for fees. A lender might advertise that it doesn't charge application fees, but then tack on a commitment or document preparation fee at closing. Another company may charge a lower interest rate, but add on lots of fees. To help shoppers,, an online consumer finance marketplace, surveyed 103 lenders and brokers in 10 states during the first half of the year.


Closing costs on $125,000 loan

Lender/broker feesHighestLowestAverage
Document preparation35050162
Mortgage broker895100344
Processing 30385099 303
Tax service1101072
Wire transfer3351055
Attorney or settlement82050374
Credit report65937
Flood certification65922
Pest and other inspection4003086
Title insurance1,157161460
Title work59550220
City/county/state tax stamps /intangible tax1,42550558


The author is a freelance writer in Teaneck, NJ.


Yvonne Wollenberg. Financial Beat. Medical Economics 2001;15:14.