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.