Wednesday Afternoon Cheat Sheet: 3 Stories That Moved Markets

The U.S. equity markets closed on a mixed note on Wednesday. Relatively weak housing data and ongoing concerns about the economic stability of the euro zone weighed heavily on investment decisions.

At the close: DJIA: -0.23%, S&P 500: -0.06%, NASDAQ: +0.12%.

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Here are three stories that helped shape the markets on Wednesday:

1) People expecting a jump in the U.S. housing market at the start of spring will be disappointed, as fewer buyers signed contracts last month. The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, dipped 0.4 percent to 104.8 in February, compared to a downwardly revised 105.2 in January, according to the National Association of Realtors. Analysts were expecting a decline of about 0.3 percent.

Before January, the last time the index posted a higher reading was in April 2010, when it reached 110.9, just before the deadline for the home-buyer tax credit. An index reading of 100 equals the average level of contract signings during 2001… (Read more.)

2) “The Chinese economy has been growing at a rapid pace for over thirty years,” begins a paper authored by Jane Haltmaier, a senior adviser to the Federal Reserve, that was published online this week. “From 1978 to 2011 real GDP growth averaged about 10 percent per year, resulting in a more than 20-fold increase in the level of output.”

The paper asks the question of whether or not this rate of growth will be sustainable over the next two decades. The short answer to this billion-dollar question is: no… (Read more.)

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3) The student debt bubble has yet to burst like housing, but more warning signs are appearing. New research shows that an increasing amount of student loans are being written off, as borrowers struggle to repay and college costs sky-rocket.

In only the first two months of 2013, banks have declared $3 billion of student loan debt as noncollectable, according to Equifax’s latest National Consumer Credit Trends Report. This represents a 36 percent surge from the same period last year. Meanwhile, the number of student loans outstanding jumped 13 percent to more than 123 million… (Read more.)

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