Imports point to soft fourth-quarter growth but firmer spending

WASHINGTON,. Fri Jan 11, 2013 — Trade deficit unexpectedly widened in November, a drag on economic growth, although the increase was driven by a surge in consumer goods imports, which gives a positive signal for consumer spending.

Other data on Friday showed declining prices for U.S. imports and exports, a sign of the chill in the global economy that is hurting exporters but giving respite to U.S. drivers stung by high fuel prices.

America’s trade deficit widened 16 percent in November to $48.7 billion, the Commerce Department said.

Analysts were expecting the deficit to shrink to $41.3 billion, and the report led some economists to consider trimming their forecasts for economic growth in the fourth quarter.

Trade deficit narrows, economy resists global chill

WASHINGTON, Thu Nov 8, 2012 – The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in September due to a sharp rise in exports, suggesting global demand for U.S. goods was holding up despite the debt crisis in Europe.

Other data on Thursday showed a drop in new claims for jobless benefits last week, although a severe storm distorted the data.

The monthly trade gap fell in September to $41.55 billion, the smallest deficit since December 2010, the Commerce Department said.

The data is the latest positive sign for the economy, which has appeared to perk up as consumers spend more freely and home construction quickens. The trade report also showed an increase in imports of consumer goods.

“This was a very encouraging report as the improvement in both export and non-petroleum import activity suggest improving demand both domestically and globally,” said Millan Mulraine, an economist at TD Securities in New York.

Exports have been a driving force for America’s recovery from the 2007-09 recession and in September they rose by 3.1 percent, the biggest increase in more than a year.

Exports to the European Union, where a debt crisis has pushed several countries into recession, were flat compared to the prior month, although the government does not seasonally adjust figures for countries and regions as it does for overall imports and exports.

Analysts were expecting the trade gap would widen to $45.0 billion, and the decline suggested the U.S. economic growth may have been faster in the third quarter than the 2.0 percent annual rate initially reported.

Trade deficit for August widens as exports fall

WASHINGTON, Thu Oct 11, 2012 – The U.S. trade deficit widened in August, in line with analyst expectations, as U.S. goods exports fell for the fifth consecutive month, a government report showed on Thursday.

The monthly trade gap increased to $44.2 billion, from an upwardly revised estimate of $42.5 billion in July, the Commerce Department said. Analysts were expecting an August trade gap of about $44.0 billion.

Overall U.S. exports dropped 1.0 percent as troubles in Europe continue to weigh on global growth, while imports fell 0.1 percent in a sign of faltering U.S. demand for consumer products, autos and capital goods.

Exports of oil, chemicals and other industrial supplies fell to the lowest level since February 2011, helping pull down the entire goods category, despite an increase in capital goods exports to the second-highest level on record.

Services exports defied the overall trend and rose to a record $52.8 billion, due mostly to increases in professional and business services and transportation.

Services imports also set a record, reflecting licensing fees to broadcast the Summer Olympic games in Britain.

U.S. trade gap narrows sharply in February to $46 billion

WASHINGTON, Thu Apr 12, 2012 – The U.S. trade deficit narrowed unexpectedly in February as exports hit a record high, imports from China and other key suppliers declined and oil import volume fell to the lowest in 15 years, a government report showed on Thursday.

The monthly trade gap shrank 12.4 percent to $46.0 billion, the biggest month-to-month decline since May 2009, the Commerce Department report said. Analysts surveyed before the report had expected the deficit to narrow only slightly from January’s revised estimate of $52.5 billion.

U.S. exports edged slightly higher to a record $181.2 billion, led by record exports of services and capital goods, such as civilian aircraft and industrial machines.

Exports to Canada, the biggest U.S. trade partner, grew 7.2 percent and also rose to the 27-nation European Union, China, Brazil and newly industrialized countries. Exports to Britain hit a record $5.3 billion.

Imports dropped 2.7 percent to $227.2 billion, the biggest monthly drop in three years.

November trade gap widens, biggest since June; hits $47.8 billion

WASHINGTON ― The trade deficit widened in November to its largest in five months, suggesting imports weighed on economic growth more heavily than expected during the fourth quarter.

The trade gap totaled $47.8 billion, exceeding analysts’ forecast of a $45.0 billion deficit, Commerce Department data showed on Friday.

The government revised its initial estimate for October’s trade deficit slightly lower to $43.3 billion.

Imports rose 1.3 percent to $225.6 billion as Americans bought more industrial supplies from abroad and spent more on foreign oil.

It was the biggest increase in imports since May, according to seasonally adjusted figures. The average price for imported oil rose to $102.50 per barrel, up 3.7 percent from October. The volume of oil imports also rose.

Imports of capital goods, which are used in domestic workplaces, climbed to a record high.

A wider trade deficit shows that more goods and services bought by U.S. businesses and consumers were produced outside the country, subtracting from gross domestic product.

Also weighing on the economy, exports fell 0.9 percent in November to $177.8 billion.

Just as higher imports might be a sign of increasing consumer demand within the country, the drop in exports might reflect the recent cooling in the global economy.

However, the report also gave a hint of a modest improvement in the politically charged trade imbalances between the United States and China.

October trade gap narrows to lowest in 10 months

WASHINGTON ― The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in October to its lowest in 10 months, but imports from China hit a record high, a government report showed on Friday.

The trade gap totaled $43.5 billion, in line with a consensus estimate from analysts before the report. However, the Commerce Department revised its estimate of the September trade deficit to $44.2 billion from $43.1 billion.

As a result, the October trade gap narrowed 1.6 percent from September, instead of widening, as most analysts expected.

Both U.S. imports and exports declined in October, in a possible sign of weakening demand in the United States and abroad.

Imports fell 1.0 percent to $222.6 billion, led by a $3.6 billion drop in industrial supplies and materials. The average price for imported oil fell for a fifth consecutive month to $98.84 per barrel, from its May peak of $108.70.

Despite the overall import decline, imports of capital goods and food, feeds and beverages increased to records in October.

Imports from China rose to a record $37.8 billion and imports from Japan increased to $12.3 billion, the highest since April 2008.

U.S. exports fell 0.8 percent to $179.2 billion, led by a $1.3 billion drop in industrial supplies and materials. The biggest monthly decline in that category was for non-monetary gold, which tumbled 25 percent to $3.5 billion.

However, for the first 10 months of 2011, non-monetary gold exports totaled $27.8 billion, compared to $14.8 billion in the same period last year.

U.S. exports to China increased to $9.7 billion, the highest since December.

The U.S. trade gap with China was unchanged in October at $28.1 billion, but remained on track to surpass the annual record of about $272 billion set in 2010.