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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Deepens Sharply
by Tom Moeller  May 10, 2012

The U.S. foreign trade deficit during March widened to $51.8B from $45.4B in February, revised from $46.0B. Expectations were for a deficit of $50.0B. Exports increased 2.9% (7.3% y/y) but imports jumped 5.2% (8.4% y/y). In chained 2005 dollars, the deficit in goods deepened to $48.9B. Real exports gained 3.6% (5.7% y/y) but real imports rose a greater 5.8% (5.0% y/y).

Overall exports rose a strong 2.9% (7.3%) while goods exports jumped 3.9% (7.0% y/y). Exports of autos & parts rose 3.0% (8.5% y/y) and foods, feeds & beverages recovered 4.7% (-7.4% y/y). Capital goods exports also rose a strong 2.9% (11.7% y/y) but nonauto consumer goods exports inched up just 0.6% (2.5% y/y). Services exports rose 1.0% (9.3% y/y). Travel exports ticked up 0.2% (11.7% y/y) as more individuals visited the U.S. and passenger fares rose 0.9% (15.5% y/y).

Total imports recovered 5.2% (8.4% y/y) in March as goods imports rose 6.0% (8.1% y/y). The rise reflected an 8.0% jump (4.9% y/y) in nonauto consumer goods and a 5.1% rise (16.2% y/y) in autos & parts. Industrial supplies imports recovered 3.9% (2.1% y/y) and capital goods imports rose 7.9% (15.9% y/y). Imports of services increased 1.1% (10.0% y/y); travel imports rose 1.2% (10.1%) as more U.S. citizens traveled abroad while passenger fares slipped 0.2% (+17.8% y/y).

The value of petroleum imports in March increased 4.6% (1.9% y/y). The average cost of crude oil per barrel rose m/m to $107.95, up from $93.76 twelve months earlier. The quantity of energy-related petroleum imports was down 10.6% y/y, +2.3 y/y in value.

By country, the March goods trade deficit with mainland China deteriorated m/m to $21.7B. Exports to China jumped 3.3% y/y to $9.8B. However, U.S. imports from China surged 14.1% y/y to $31.5B. With Japan, the deficit increased slightly m/m to $7.1B as exports rose 5.8% y/y. Imports increased 12.0% y/y. The deficit with the European Union deteriorated to $9.8B with a 2.9% y/y rise in exports to Europe and a 4.6% 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.

Get by with a Little Help From My ... Other Exports from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is available here.

Foreign Trade Mar Feb Jan Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
U.S. Trade Deficit $51.8B $45.4B $52.5B $46.1B
$560.0B $500.0B $381.3B
Exports (%) 2.9 0.3 1.5 7.3 14.6 16.7 -14.5
Imports 5.2 -2.8 2.1 8.4 14.0 19.5 -23.0
 Petroleum 4.6 -4.6 3.0 1.9 30.8 32.5 -44.0
 Nonpetroleum goods 6.3 -3.1 1.8 9.9 12.1 20.8 -20.9
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