A WEEK IN PERSONAL FINANCE

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The Independent Online
Proposals for a new type of investment fund which could replace the unit trust - the open-ended investment company (Oeic) - were published by the Securities and Investments Board, the chief financial services' watchdog. Oeics are more akin to investment funds in Europe, and many unit trusts may switch structure. They will have the same price for buyers and sellers at any one time, unlike unit trusts.

Store cards, such as those issued by Marks and Spencer and House of Fraser, are increasing in popularity. There are now 12 million held by customers and the value of purchases using them increased by 17 per cent in the year to September, according to the British Retail Consortium.

The housing market is still flat. Latest figures also show prices nearly 2 per cent lower than at the same time last year, according to the Halifax building society, and nearly 4 per cent lower according to the Nationwide. Bank of England figures showed a dip in new home loans approved this Autumn.

HSBC Asset Management announced it was removing the initial charge on its full range of index-tracking unit trusts. The move will save new investors 5 per cent. But the price-cutting does not affect unit trusts offered by Midland Bank and First Direct, also part of the HSBC banking group. Legal & General also cut charges on its existing PEPs and launched lower- cost stock market and bond PEPs.

NatWest opens what is believed to be the first seven-day branch from today in the Lakeside shopping centre at Thurrock, in Essex. The branch will open from 11am to 5pm on Sundays. The bank plans more Sunday outlets.

The Halifax said customers with maturing Tessa accounts who indicated their intention to reinvest in a Halifax Tessa would get a pounds 50 bonus on the new tax-free savings account. Millions of people will have Tessas worth up to pounds 10,000 or more maturing from next January.

Top executives saw their pay rise by an average of 8.8 per cent, more than twice the rate of inflation, in the past year, according to a report by the Monks Partnership.

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