Petrol and diesel prices soar

Record-high diesel prices, confident home sellers and a headline-grabbing Jisa rate - Tim Bennett rounds up the best of the week's personal finance news.

It's been a bad week for motorists. The price of diesel is at an all-time high, notes Ben Laurance on A litre now costs more than 143p, whereas two years ago it was nearer 114p, according to the AA motoring organisation.

Unrest in the Middle East is largely being blamed: "hedge funds and speculators have been stoking the crude oil price frenzy", betting that an escalation of the Iranian crisis will disrupt supplies. Average petrol prices are also pretty toppy at around 135p a litre compared to a peak last May of 137p. To find the cheapest diesel near you, try

Home sellers are feeling more confident than at any time in the last decade, based on asking price data agency Rightmove says that asking prices are up 4.1% since January. Mortgage applications have also jumped by more than 25% on last year, according to the Mortgage Advice Bureau.

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But property bulls should keep the fizz corked. As The Daily Telegraph's Ian Cowie comments, "asking isn't the same as getting" and that's true whether you are an optimistic seller waiting for someone to bite, or a buyer anxiously waiting for a mortgage application to be approved. Try for the best deals.

Halifax is trying to woo thrifty parents who want to save for their children or ask generous relatives to do so. Its new junior individual savings account (Jisa) offers a headline-grabbing rate of 6%, way above that of any rivals.

However, there is a big string attached. A parent must also hold an Isa with the Halifax, otherwise the Jisa rate halves to 3%. Still, well done the Halifax for stirring things up a bit in an otherwise uninspiring Jisa market, which so far features just 27 product providers. Do remember that with Jisas the money is locked up until the child turns 18.

Utility giant British Gas is offering £50 to anyone who puts them in touch with a "vulnerable" person who is entitled to free insulation. Energy companies are obliged to provide help to anyone on a low income or claiming income-related pension or disability benefits. Up to 1.8 million pensioners living in poverty may qualify.

Consumer watchdog Which? and price comparison site uSwitch are campaigning to get proposed new European Union rules on mobile phone charges tightened further. The problem lies with using the internet when you are overseas even after the change, some operators will be able to charge £400 for 1GB of mobile data abroad, compared to under £10 here.

As a result, as Which? points out, the cost of a bit of roaming on holiday could easily end up costing you more than the holiday itself. Make sure you check charges before you go and, if you have children, consider blocking their internet access when abroad. And watch out for apps (software applications) that access the web automatically check your web settings before you jet off.

Tim graduated with a history degree from Cambridge University in 1989 and, after a year of travelling, joined the financial services firm Ernst and Young in 1990, qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1994.

He then moved into financial markets training, designing and running a variety of courses at graduate level and beyond for a range of organisations including the Securities and Investment Institute and UBS. He joined MoneyWeek in 2007.