Optimism on housing front The Housing Authority is optimistic that it can secure an average return of 6 per cent a year for its investments, despite plunging into the red this financial year. The authority also endorsed plans to provide an average of 15,400 new, low-rental flats every year for needy families. At yesterday's full council meeting, authority members heard that the revised 2008-09 budget showed a deficit of HK$216 million. Tsang plans trip to Los Angeles Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is going on vacation this afternoon until February 1. During his one-week holiday, Mr Tsang will visit the United States, where on Monday he will officiate at a cultural exchange event in Los Angeles. 16 investors make small claims Sixteen investors took their cases against banks that sold them minibonds and similar derivatives to the Small Claims Tribunal yesterday. Representatives from two of the eight banks named - DBS and Bank of China - asked for the cases to be heard in the District Court. The cases were adjourned to March 23, pending the tribunal's consideration of an estimated 100-plus other claims investors have already filed. Chief executive's popularity rises The popularity ratings for the chief executive have improved over the past month, a survey has found. Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was given 51.6 marks, up from the 50.7 recorded last month. Fifty is the pass mark. Among the secretaries, finance chief John Tsang Chun-wah saw the biggest rating change with a rise of 2.4 marks from December to 52.9 marks. The survey of 823 adult residents was run by Chinese University's Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies. Views on freedoms improve Public perceptions on press freedoms in Hong Kong have risen to a record high since the handover, according to a survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong. Of the 10 areas covered in the survey, freedom of press recorded the biggest increase, 0.26 marks, to 7.66 on a scale of zero to 10 - its highest level since the survey began in 1997.