U.S. sales of previously occupied homes surged in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million, the fastest pace since November 2009. The spike in sales shows housing remains a driving force for the economy even as mortgage rates rise. The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that sales jumped 6.5 percent last month from a 5.06 million pace in June. They have risen 17.2 percent over the past 12 months. Sales have now stayed above an annual pace of 5 million for three straight months. The last time that happened was in 2007.
At least two major U.S. freight railroads are trying to install cameras in their locomotives to make sure crews are following rules and avoiding cellphone use. Union Pacific filed a court action this week asking a federal judge to declare that it has the authority to install the cameras under the railroad's labor agreements. Kansas City Southern won a similar lawsuit last month over the objections of labor unions. Installing these inward-facing cameras to monitor crews was recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board after the 2008 collision of a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific train in Southern California that killed 25. That crash was blamed on a distracted engineer sending text messages.
Walmart is getting rid of the $5 entry fee for customers wanting to open its interest-free, pay-over-time program for holiday gifts. The holiday layaway program is to kick off Sept. 13 and last until Dec. 13. About 35,500 items will be available, 1,000 more than a year ago. Walmart also is bringing back a $10 cancellation fee that was eliminated last year.