MARKETS & ECONOMY:
PENDING HOME SALES
WASHINGTON â¿¿ A measure of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell only slightly in February to the second-highest level in nearly three years. The report suggests sales of previously occupied homes will keep rising in the coming months. The National Association of Realtors says that its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales dipped to 104.8 in February. That's down from January's reading of 105.2 â¿¿ the highest since April 2010, when a homebuyer's tax credit was boosting sales. By Martin Crutsinger.
DURBAN, South Africa â¿¿ Leaders of the five BRICS nations fueling global economic growth agree to create a development bank to help fund their $4.5 trillion infrastructure programs â¿¿ a direct challenge to the World Bank that they accuse of Western bias. By Michelle Faul.
â¿¿ WORLD DISASTERS-INSURED LOSSES â¿¿ Insurance claims paid out because of natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2012 totaled $77 billion globally, making it the third costliest year on record, Swiss Re says.
NEW YORK â¿¿ Investors just can't get past Europe. Renewed worries about the region's long-running debt crisis weighed on the Dow Jones industrial average on Wednesday, and held the Standard & Poor's 500 index back from reaching an all-time high. By Matthew Craft.
â¿¿ OIL PRICES â¿¿ The price of oil rose near the end of trading to close at $96.68 a barrel, and has now gone up more than $4 in less than a week.
NEW YORK â¿¿ No "downward-dog" required. Lululemon says no demonstrations of yoga or any other positions are needed to return the pricey black pants that the company pulled from shelves last week after finding that they were too sheer. The Vancouver-based yoga gear maker's statement comes a day after a New York Post report recounted one woman's tale of being asked by sales staff to bend over to prove that the yoga pants she was trying to return were sheer. By Retail Writer Mae Anderson.