WASHINGTON — Americans increased their retail spending in July by the most in five months, opening their wallets after a frugal spring and offering hope that the slumping economy may rebound in the second half of the year.
Retail spending rose in every major category, from electronics and sporting goods to furniture, building supplies and garden equipment. The report from the government followed one earlier this month that showed hiring strengthened in July.
Overall retail sales rose 0.8 percent from June to July, the Commerce Department said. It was the sharpest increase since February, and it followed three months of declines.
“People are spending a little more and feeling a little better about the economy,” said James Donnelly, a sales associate at Boston-based Tadpole, which sells infant wear, children’s clothing and toys.
West Nile outbreak in Texas worst in nation with 16 deaths
HOUSTON — Dallas County officials have declared a state of emergency after the West Nile virus infected at least 190 people, killing 10, as the nation’s worst outbreak hits Texas.
An unusually warm winter and rainy spring in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and elsewhere in Texas has provided ideal conditions for breeding mosquitoes, West Nile carriers, officials said.
The emergency declaration in Dallas clears the way for state money and resources to fight the outbreak. In the coming days the county will deploy small planes for aerial insecticide spraying over hard-hit neighborhoods, in addition to ground spraying already underway.
Texans have contracted the highest number of West Nile infections and have suffered more West Nile deaths than any other state in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Statewide, 16 deaths have been reported so far this year, compared with two in 2011 and seven the year before, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
As of Monday, 381 West Nile infections had been reported in more than two dozen Texas counties, compared with 27 infections reported statewide last year in a handful of counties.
In Houston alone, about 95 percent of tested mosquitoes are carrying the virus.
No other state comes close to Texas, according to the CDC.
Scientists plot driving routes for new Mars rover
LOS ANGELES — NASA’s newest rover Curiosity has yet to make its first move on Mars, but scientists said Tuesday they are already mapping out possible driving routes to a Martian mountain.
Since landing in Gale Crater near the equator last week, the nuclear-powered rover has been getting a head-to-wheel health checkup while parked. It touched down about 5 miles from Mount Sharp where signatures of past water have been spotted at the base.
Its ultimate goal is to scale the lower slopes in search of the chemical building blocks of life to determine whether the environment was favorable for microbial life.
Apple-co-founder Steve Jobs’ Palo Alto home burglarized
PALO ALTO, Calif. — Not even the home of Silicon Valley legend Steve Jobs has escaped a San Francisco Bay area-wide upswing in residential burglaries. But unlike a majority of those crimes, a suspect is in custody.
The deceased Apple co-founder’s home in Palo Alto was burglarized July 17, said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Tom Flattery, a member of the high-technology crimes unit.
More than $60,000 worth of “computers and personal items” were allegedly stolen, but Flattery declined to say whether they belonged to Jobs, who died last year at the age of 56, or another family member.
Authorities arrested Kariem McFarlin, 35, of Alameda, Calif., in his hometown Aug. 2 on suspicion of burglarizing the residence and selling stolen property, Flattery said. He was arraigned Aug. 7.