THE UNCERTAIN state of the housing market is emphasised by a survey today which suggests house prices fell by 1.3% in 2005, according to the Financial Times.
If accurate, this would be the first full year in which prices have fallen since the last recession, claims the paper.
Only three out of 58 areas of the country saw slim rises during the year - central London, West Yorkshire and Derbyshire - according to the Hometrack figures, which cover the 12 months to December.
The biggest falls were 7% in Milton Keynes; 6% in Lincoln; 5% in Leicester and 4% in Plymouth.
Figures from Hometrack, an online estate agency, have been under scrutiny after seriously underestimating house price growth last year. But the group says its survey of 7,500 estate agents gives an accurate picture of the market.
BURNT INVESTORS in split capital investment trusts are being told to expect a further wait on compensation decisions by the Financial Ombudsman Service, according to the Times.
The FOS, which currently is examining 1,200 complaints, is being swamped by lengthy submissions from City firms which claim that its methodology is unfair.
It is also having to move very carefully because of repeated threats by some firms they may go to judicial review if decisions go against them.
One split capital investor pursing a complaint against Brewin Dolphin with the FOS for more than a year was told this month he would have to wait at least another three months.
HUGH OSMOND, the acquisitive entrepreneur who took control of Pearl Group this year, has held talks with Aviva and Abbey about buying their closed and legacy life insurance funds, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Osmond, who already has £27bn of closed life funds under management in Pearl, would considerably increase the size of his company if either party were to sell. Abbey has about £4bn of closed life funds and Aviva £3bn, but both have significantly more in legacy funds that have yet to be closed to new business.
Osmond said: "We make a point of speaking to everyone who has a decent-sized fund, and obviously they are among them. We're very keen to buy other stuff now and we've registered our interest."
Neither insurer has decided to sell but, when asked if they would consider disposing of the legacy businesses, a senior source at Aviva said: "If an offer came in at a particular level it would be our duty to shareholders to consider it."
MAN GROUP, the hedge fund business run by Stanley Fink, has been ordered to hand over documents and other information, including telephone records and audio recordings, to the receiver of a collapsed Cayman Islands-registered hedge fund, who is looking into allegations heavy trading losses were hidden from investors, says the Guardian.
A court in Philadelphia made the order on Friday following the filing of a contempt of court motion in September against Man's brokerage business by Clark Hodgson, the court-appointed receiver trawling through the wreckage of Philadelphia Alternative Asset Management (PAAM).
This hedge fund, run by a former star trader Paul Eustace, collapsed earlier this year. In June the commodities futures trading commission (CFTC), an American financial regulator, filed fraud charges against Mr Eustace.
The securities and exchange commission, the main US financial regulator, has also launched its own investigation in to the affair.
BEARSDEN-BASED Campbell Dallas Financial Services (CDFS) has entered the top ten of financial services companies in Scotland by acquiring a strategic interest in Perth's Pat Brogan Life & Pensions, reports the Scotsman.
The combined operation is expected to reach an annual turnover of £2m. The move is aimed at expanding CDFS's geographical reach and expand the range of services to clients of both firms. Established in 1999, CDFS currently has a turnover of £1.5m and specialises in investments, pensions and employee remuneration.
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