Financial Beat

Autos, Real Estate, Stocks, Online Advice


Financial Beat

Jump to:Choose article section...Autos: Warning issued for an SUV model Real Estate: Home sales at near—record prices Largest home price increases, 1993—2000 Stocks: Does your broker have a hidden motive? Online Advice: Can you trust financial Web sites?

By Yvonne Chilik Wollenberg

Autos: Warning issued for an SUV model

Car buyers should be wary of the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited because it tipped severely on two wheels during tests of emergency maneuvers, says Consumer Reports. Consumers Union, the nonprofit testing organization that publishes the magazine, rated the SUV unacceptable because of its dangerous behavior during routine testing—only the fourth such rating ever issued by the organization, which has tested 118 vehicles in such maneuvers over the past 13 years. None of the other SUV models tested at the same time—2001 Dodge Durango, 2002 Ford Explorer, 2002 GMC Envoy, 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee, 2001 Nissan Pathfinder, and 2001 Toyota 4Runner—tipped up.

The rating doesn't apply to previous—year models of the Montero, or to the 2001 Montero Sport or Montero XLS. If you have a 2001 Montero Limited, don't carry cargo on top, because this increases the risk of a rollover by raising the vehicle's center of gravity, advises the magazine.

Real Estate: Home sales at near—record prices

Home prices rose 16 percent from 1993 to 2000, when adjusted for inflation, and the biggest increase was in Denver, where prices soared more than 50 percent, according to a study by The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Prices shot up 20 percent or more in 17 metropolitan areas around the country, but fell in Buffalo, Hartford, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Rochester, Sacramento, and Washington, DC.

Rising prices and lower interest rates have prompted many homeowners to refinance their mortgages, either for cash refunds or to lower payments. The average home equity fell 10 percentage points during the 1990s.


Largest home price increases, 1993—2000

 1993 average price*2000 average priceIncrease
Salt Lake City103,574144,88340
San Francisco296,797393,39133
Grand Rapids88,621115,32030
Kansas City93,713117,87526
New Orleans92,897112,85321


Stocks: Does your broker have a hidden motive?

Stock analysts will have to declare up front whether they or their brokerage have a financial interest in stocks they are boosting, under rules proposed by the National Association of Securities Dealers. Such a move by the regulatory association would force analysts to disclose any conflict of interest during television interviews or public appearances and in prominent places in sales literature. In a related move, Merrill Lynch has announced that it will ban its analysts from investing in companies they cover in order to ensure the objectivity of its research.

The NASD's proposed rule must be approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Check the SEC's Web site ( ) for information on how to track potential conflicts of interest and to see whether your analyst's firm has underwritten a stock offering or owns more than 5 percent of the securities.

Online Advice: Can you trust financial Web sites?

Financial Web sites provide more consistent answers than do financial planners when it comes to simple questions such as how much life insurance to buy or whether to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth. That's the conclusion of a study sponsored by the Foundation for Financial Planning. For more complex investment and estate planning questions, however, personal advisers offer better advice. The two sources are equally reliable in estimating retirement needs.

The study also found that financial Web sites are not as different from one another as consumers may think, because many of them use the same tools. For example, of 31 sites that offer advice on converting to Roth IRAs, 12 employ a calculator constructed by CalcBuilder, and would therefore come up with the same answers, reducing their value to consumers looking for second or third opinions.

The author is a freelance writer in Teaneck, NJ.


Yvonne Wollenberg. Financial Beat. Medical Economics 2001;16:17.