Briefly: “U.S. housing starts jump” and more news

By Staff | March 17, 2009 | Last updated on March 17, 2009
3 min read
Previously this week: | MON | TUE | WED | THURS |

American housing starts rebounded sharply in February, surprising most analysts with a 22% increase, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000.

Benjamin Reitzes, economist at BMO Economics, called the increase in multiple-family dwellings “unsustainable” at 82.3%.

“Despite the big increase in starts, the average of the first two months of Q1 remains well below Q4’s average, meaning construction will continue to drag on GDP in the current quarter,” he wrote in a commentary.

“While the surge in starts is good news, the increase is likely unsustainable. A sustainable recovery needs to be centred in single-family units. Look for some retracement of the gain in March, as the housing slump isn’t over yet.”

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Cross border healthcare coverage offered

Clients hoping to avoid wait times for medical treatment might be tempted to cross the border. A new insurance policy offered by an independent life insurance advisory firm can help to defray the costs.

The policy covers up to $5 million US for treatment and travel costs and may be sold by any insurance advisor in Canada. The product can be purchased with deductible options of $5,000 US or $10,000 US per occurrence.

“Average wait times for treatment in Canada now range from a minimum of 13 to 28 weeks, so there is a need for affordable protection that eliminates unnecessary delays while funding treatments and travel costs,” says Mark Halpern, CFP, founder and president of “This product helps to reduce emotional distress for patients and their families. Importantly, when set up properly, all premiums are tax-deductible and benefits are received tax-free.”

His firm offers ELITE U.S. Healthcare insurance, which provides access to American medical centres of excellence, such as the Cleveland Clinic, Sloan-Kettering, Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, in the event of any illness or injury.

ELITE U.S. Healthcare insurance is underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada and administered by Global Excel Management Inc.

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Barclays in Tax Probe

Barclays Bank is facing an investigation by British regulators after a whistleblower accused the London-based bank of tax evasion.

Documents leaked to the opposition Liberal Democrat Party allege the U.K.’s third-largest bank has set up companies in Britain and abroad in order to avoid paying taxes.

“The documents suggest a deeply ingrained culture of tax avoidance,” said Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats. “The Barclays team looks like the spider at the centre of a highly artificial web of non-transparent transactions through tax havens. Reputable banks don’t turn tax avoidance into a profit machine.”

Barclays denies the allegations and says it voluntarily discloses to Revenue & Customs all transactions that have tax implications.

“Barclays doesn’t encourage or condone tax evasion,” the bank said in a statement. “We comply with taxation laws in the U.K. and the other countries in which we operate.”

On Tuesday the bank obtained a court order banning The Guardian newspaper from publishing the documents which purport to show how the bank set up companies to avoid hundreds of millions of pounds in tax.

(03/17/09) staff


The staff of have been covering news for financial advisors since 1998.