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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Deteriorates
by Tom Moeller  March 7, 2013

The U.S. foreign trade deficit during January deepened to $44.4 from $38.1B in December, revised from $38.5B. A $43.0B deficit had been expected. The deterioration was due to a 1.8% increase (-0.9% y/y) in imports set against a 1.2% decline (+3.3% y/y) in exports. In chained 2005 dollars, the deficit in goods deteriorated to $48.0B. Real imports increased 1.3% (0.3% y/y) while real exports plunged 1.7% (+1.5% y/y).

Leading the jump in imports was a 12.3% gain (-13.1% y/y) in the value of petroleum imports. The quantity of petroleum product imports gained 15.1% m/m but it was down 5.2% y/y. The price of crude oil fell to $94.08 from $95.16. Real imports less petroleum were unchanged in January (+2.1% y/y). Real capital goods imports recovered 1.2% (3.8% y/y) but nonauto consumer goods imports were off 2.0% (+3.1% y/y). Real auto imports fell 2.8% and by 2.8% y/y. Nominal services imports gained 1.3% (0.4% y/y) as travel imports jumped 2.9% (0.5% y/y) and passenger fares surged 3.6% (2.1% y/y).

Real merchandise exports declined 1.7% (+1.5% y/y) as industrial supplies, mostly petroleum products, fell 6.0% (+1.3% y/y). The constant dollar value of motor vehicle exports rose 1.2% (-3.0% y/y); real exports of nonauto consumer goods exports gained 1.7% (6.0% y/y) and real capital goods exports rose 1.2% (1.5% y/y). Services exports slipped 0.3% (+5.5% y/y). Passenger fares rose 1.8% (11.4% y/y) but travel exports fell 1.6% (+10.3% y/y).

By country, the January goods trade deficit with mainland China deteriorated m/m to $27.8B. Exports to China rose 12.1% y/y and U.S. imports increased 8.1% y/y. With Japan, the deficit deepened to $6.1B. U.S. exports fell 8.5% y/y and imports fell 4.9% y/y. The deficit with the European Union was roughly unchanged at  $8.6B. U.S. exports fell 4.1% y/y while imports were off 2.4%.

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 (Current Dollars) Jan Dec Nov Y/Y 2012 2011 2010
U.S. Trade Deficit $-44.4B $-38.1B $48.2B $52.3B
$539.5B $559.9B $494.7B
Exports (%) -1.2 2.2 1.2 3.3 4.3 14.2 16.7
Imports 1.8 -2.6 3.8 -0. 2.7 13.9 19.4
  Petroleum 12.3 -11.0 -2.5 -13.1 -5.5 30.7 32.5
  Nonpetroleum goods -0.0 -1.4 6.2 2.2 5.2 12.1 20.8
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