Business News Roundup, Dec. 16

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European officials flipped the switch Thursday on a satellite navigation system meant to rival the U.S.-made GPS service that’s become a staple feature of smartphones and cars worldwide. The Galileo system — named after the Italian engineer and astronomer — is designed to provide commercial and government customers with more precise location data than GPS. Satellite systems such as GPS also play an important role in providing precision timing for financial transactions and energy grids. […] the European Space Agency managed to launch four satellites on a single rocket last month and expects to have a full complement of 24 satellites, plus spares, in orbit within four years. While GPS receivers are standard in millions of devices, only a handful of gadgets support the Galileo system so far. Consumer prices rose in November by the smallest amount in three months as the climb in energy prices moderated a bit and food prices remained flat. The Labor Department said Thursday that its consumer price index increased 0.2 percent last month after a 0.4 percent October increase. Energy prices were up 1.2 percent, a slowdown from a 3.5 percent rise in October. The result reflects the fact that gasoline prices rose 2.5 percent last month, less than half the 6.7 percent October gain. Over the past year, consumer prices are up 1.7 percent, below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target. Chemical giant DuPont will pay more than $50 million but admit no fault under a proposed environmental settlement after releasing toxic mercury for decades into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley waterways, authorities announced Thursday. The money will go to wildlife habitat restoration, water quality enhancement and improvements to recreational areas. Long-term mortgage rates climbed for the seventh straight week after Donald Trump’s election victory, again marking new highs for the year. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan rose this week to 4.16 percent from 4.13 percent the previous week. The Obama administration has filed its 15th challenge against China at the Word Trade Organization, alleging it is unfairly limiting American farmers’ ability to export rice, wheat and corn. Exporters are sometimes concerned that countries make it difficult to take advantage of the lower tariff rates. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says China is a significant market for U.S. grain farmers.