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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Increases; Exports Weaken & Oil Prices Rise
by Tom Moeller  October 11, 2012

The U.S. August foreign trade deficit rose to an expected $44.2B from $42.5B in July. Exports fell 1.0% (+1.6% y/y) while imports slipped 0.1% (+1.0% y/y). In chained 2005 dollars, the deficit in goods deteriorated to $48.4B in August, its deepest since April. Real exports fell 2.6% (+2.4% y/y) while real imports slipped 0.9% (+2.9% y/y).

Real exports of foods, feeds & beverages led the decline with an 11.9% drop (+2.6% y/y). Real exports of nonauto consumer goods slumped 2.6% (+1.6% y/y) while real exports of autos & parts slipped 0.5% (+8.3% y/y). Offsetting these drops was a 1.0% rise (6.7% y/y) real exports of capital goods. Services exports rose 0.5% (1.8% y/y) as travel exports nudged up 0.2% (5.3% y/y) and passenger fares fell 1.2% (-2.8% y/y).

Total nominal imports slipped 0.1% (+1.0% y/y) in August, down for the fifth straight month, as goods imports fell 0.3% (+0.6% y/y). The uptick in oil prices to an average $94.36 per barrel helped raise the value of petroleum imports by 3.8% (-11.7% y/y). The quantity of petroleum imports increased 1.1% (-6.4% y/y). Elsewhere, in real terms there was a 3.0% drop (+16.5% y/y) in auto imports and a 2.5% decline (-2.3% y/y) in imports of nonauto consumer goods. Imports of capital goods fell 1.0% (+5.5% y/y) but imports of foods, feeds & beverages rose 2.5% (6.5% y/y). 

By country, the August goods trade deficit with mainland China improved slightly m/m to $28.7B, still near the record. Exports to China increased 2.2% y/y while U.S. imports slipped 0.2% y/y. With Japan, the deficit was roughly stable m/m at $6.7B as U.S. exports rose 15.9% y/y but U.S. imports increased 9.8% y/y. The deficit with the European Union remained nearly the deepest in five-years at $11.7B with a 4.5% y/y decline in U.S. exports and a 5.5% y/y 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 Aug Jul Jun Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
U.S. Trade Deficit $44.2B $42.5B $41.9B $44.8B
$559.9B $494.7B $381.3B
Exports (%) -1.0 -1.1 1.2 1.6 14.2 16.7 -14.5
Imports -0.1 -0.6 -1.5 1.0 13.9 19.5 -23.0
  Petroleum 5.2 -6.0 -6.6 -9.4 30.7 32.5 -44.0
  Nonpetroleum goods -1.5 0.2 -0.9 3.3 12.1 20.8 -20.9
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