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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Widens With Higher Oil Values
by Tom Moeller  March 9, 2012

The U.S. foreign trade deficit in January widened to $52.6B versus $50.4B in December, revised from $48.8B. Expectations had been for a January deficit of $49.0B, according to Action Economics. Exports rose 1.4% (7.7% y/y) but imports jumped 2.1% (8.4% y/y). In chained 2005 dollars, the overall deficit in goods deepened to $49.1B; real exports rose 1.1% (4.7% y/y) while real imports increased 1.3% (1.9% y/y).

Overall exports rose 1.4% while goods exports rose 1.5% (7.6% y/y), 1.1% (4.7% y/y) in real terms. The nominal gain was led by a 9.0% increase in automotive vehicles & parts (18.1% y/y). Exports of capital goods also posted a strong 3.1% (11.0% y/y) rise. Offsetting these gains was a 1.5% decline (+2.8% y/y) in nonauto consumer goods exports, while industrial supplies & materials fell 0.7% (+6.3% y/y). Services exports rose 1.4% (8.0% y/y). Travel exports rose 2.1% (6.3% y/y) as more individuals visited the U.S., while passenger fares gained 3.0% (10.9% y/y).

Total imports rose 2.1% in January as goods imports jumped 2.2% (8.4% y/y), 1.3% (1.9% y/y) in real terms. The gain was led by a 10.4% (15.6% y/y) increase in auto imports and a 4.8% rise (14.2% y/y) in imports of foods, feeds & beverages. Imports of nonauto consumer goods rose 0.4% (3.4% y/y) and capital good imports ticked up 0.1% (6.7% y/y). Imports of services increased 1.1% (7.8% y/y); travel imports fell 1.5% (+2.9%) as fewer U.S. citizens traveled abroad while passenger fares rose 4.0% (10.0% y/y).

The value of January petroleum imports jumped another 3.3% (11.5% y/y). The average cost of crude oil per barrel slipped m/m to $103.81, up from $84.34 a year earlier. During January, the quantity of energy-related petroleum imports fell 8.1% y/y.

By country, the January goods trade deficit with mainland China deepened m/m to $26.0B and was larger than the $23.0B twelve months earlier. Imports from China increased 9.7% y/y to $34.4B as U.S. exports rose 3.6% y/y to $8.4B. With Japan, the deficit eased to $6.2B as exports rose 12.4% y/y but imports increased 18.3% y/y. The deficit with the European Union eased to $8.5B with a 4.2% y/y rise in exports to Europe and a 14.4% 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

Why Is the U.S. Share of World Merchandise Exports Shrinking? from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York can be found here

Foreign Trade Jan Dec Nov Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
U.S. Trade Deficit $52.6B $50.4B $47.5B $47.5B
$560.0B $500.0B $381.3B
Exports (%) 1.4 0.4 -1.1 7.7 14.6 16.7 -14.5
Imports 2.1 1.6 1.1 8.4 14.0 19.5 -23.0
  Petroleum 3.3 0.1 8.8 11.5 30.8 32.5 -44.0
  Nonpetroleum goods 1.8 2.1 -0.2 7.6 12.1 20.8 -20.9
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