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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Is Deepest in Five Months
by Tom Moeller January 13, 2012

The U.S. foreign trade deficit deepened during November for the first time in five months. The shortfall rose to $47.8B from a revised $43.3B in October, initially reported as $43.5B. Expectations had been for $44.7B according to Action Economics. Exports declined 0.9% (+10.3% y/y) while imports rose 1.3% (+12.7% y/y). In chained 2005 dollars, the overall deficit in goods deepened to $47.5B; real exports fell 1.5% (+6.1% y/y) while real imports increased 1.3% (4.9% y/y).

Overall exports slipped 0.9% led by a 1.2% decline (+11.2% y/y) in goods exports. Exports of industrial supplies & materials slumped 3.8% (+17.9% y/y) but nonauto consumer goods jumped 5.4% (4.8% y/y). Capital goods imports slipped 0.6% (+9.2% y/y) while exports of automotive vehicles fell 1.9% (+17.5% y/y). Services exports were roughly unchanged (8.1% y/y). Travel exports fell 2.2% (+8.1% y/y) as fewer individuals visited the U.S. and passenger fares also fell 2.2% (+16.1% y/y).

Total imports rose 1.3% in November as goods imports increased 1.9% (14.0% y/y). Imports of industrial supplies gained 4.5% (25.8% y/y) as oil prices rose but imports of nonauto consumer goods imports fell 1.6% (+4.1% y/y). Imports of capital goods inched up 0.3% (8.7% y/y) while auto imports rose 3.8% (15.0% y/y). Imports of services slipped 0.4% (6.1% y/y). Travel imports fell 1.6% (+3.8% y/y) as fewer U.S. citizens traveled abroad while passenger fares fell 0.6% (+6.9% y/y).

The value of November's petroleum imports jumped 9.3% (37.7% y/y with higher prices. In constant dollars, petroleum imports increased 5.8% and by 3.9% y/y. The cost of crude oil per barrel rose to $102.50, its highest level since September, 2008. In October, 2010, the average price hit a low $74.21. During November, the quantity of energy-related petroleum imports rose 4.1% y/y.

By country, the November goods trade deficit with mainland China lessened m/m to $26.9B. That was increased from $25.1B twelve months earlier. Imports from China increased 6.5% y/y to $36.8B while U.S. exports rose 5.1% y/y to $9.9B. With Japan, the deficit slipped to $6.2B as exports rose 16.7% y/y and imports rose 10.5% y/y. The deficit with the European Union deepened to $9.7B with a 4.8% y/y rise in exports to Europe and a 12.6% jump 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 Nov Oct Sep Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
U.S. Trade Deficit $47.8B $43.3B $44.2B $38.8B
$500.0B $381.3B $698.3B
Exports-Goods & Services $177.8 $179.4B $180.6B $166.1B $1,838B $1,575.0B $1,842.7B
  % Change -0.9 -0.7 1.4 10.3 16.7 -14.5 11.4
Imports-Goods & Services $225.6 $222.6B $224.8B $200.0B $2,333.8B $1,956.3B $2,541.0B
  % Change 1.3 -1.0 0.6 12.7 19.5 -23.0 8.1
  Petroleum 9.3 -5.5 1.1 37.7 32.5 -44.0 37.0
  Nonpetroleum goods 0.1 -0.1 0.4 9.3 20.8 -20.9 1.5
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