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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Improves
by Tom Moeller  November 10, 2011

The September foreign trade deficit fell to $43.1B from a revised $44.9B in August, initially reported as $45.6B. Expectations had been for $46.3B according to Action Economics. Exports increased 1.4% (15.9% y/y) after their 0.1% August uptick while imports rose 0.3% (11.9% y/y). In chained 2005 dollars, the overall deficit in goods improved to $45.4B; real exports rose 1.4% (8.3% y/y) while real imports ticked up 0.3% (2.3% y/y).

Goods exports rose 1.9% (18.1% y/y) during September. Exports of nonauto consumer goods jumped 5.3% (10.8% y/y) but capital goods ticked only 0.3% higher (10.3% y/y). Exports of automotive vehicles recovered 1.7% (18.6% y/y). Services exports slipped 0.2% (+8.9% y/y). Travel exports slipped 0.3% (+10.4% y/y) as fewer individuals visited the U.S. and passenger fares fell 1.8% (+20.6% y/y).

Overall imports inched up 0.3% in September as goods imports also rose 0.3% (13.9% y/y). Imports of industrial supplies rose 1.4% (28.7% y/y) but imports of nonauto consumer goods imports slipped 0.5% (+2.0% y/y), down for the sixth month in the last seven. Imports of capital goods also fell again by 1.0% (+6.7% y/y). Imports of services ticked 0.3% higher and by a slim 2.5% y/y. Travel imports rose 1.1% (+4.6% y/y) as fewer U.S. citizens traveled abroad while passenger fares rose 2.6% (14.1% y/y).

The value of September's petroleum imports inched 0.3% higher but by nearly one-third y/y with higher prices. In constant dollars, petroleum imports rose 1.9% in September but fell 6.0% y/y. The cost of crude oil per barrel edged down m/m to $101.02; in September 2010, the average price was $72.33. During this past September, the quantity of energy-related petroleum imports fell 6.4% y/y.

By country, the goods trade deficit with Mainland China improved slightly m/m to $28.1B. Imports from there increased 3.5% y/y while exports to China rose 17.3% y/y. With Japan, the deficit improved to $5.2B as exports rose 10.1% y/y and imports rose 5.9% y/y. The deficit with the European Union improved to $6.40B with a 14.0% y/y rise in exports to Europe and a 10.9% rise in imports.

The international trade data can be found in Haver's USECON database. Detailed figures are available in the USINT database. The expectations figures are from the Action Economics consensus survey, which is carried in the AS1REPNA

Foreign Trade Sep Aug Jul Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
U.S. Trade Deficit $43.1B $44.9B $45.6B $44.0B
$500.0B $381.3B $698.3B
Exports-Goods & Services $180.4B $177.9B $177.7B $154.7B $1,838B $1,575.0B $1,842.7B
  % Change 1.4 0.1 3.4 15.9 16.7 -14.5 11.4
Imports-Goods & Services $223.5B $222.8B $222.3B $199.7B $2,333.8B $1,956.3B $2,541.0B
  % Change 0.3 -0.2 0.3 11.9 19.5 -23.0 8.1
  Petroleum 0.3 1.8 -6.1 31.6 32.5 -44.0 37.0
  Nonpetroleum goods 0.2 -0.7 1.5 9.9 20.8 -20.9 1.5
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