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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Falls Sharply As Imports Tumble
by Tom Moeller  May 2, 2013

The U.S. foreign trade deficit during March declined to $38.8B from $43.6B in February, revised from $43.0B. A $42.5B deficit had been expected. A sharp 2.8% decline in imports (-5.6% y/y) was behind the improvement  Exports also were off by 0.9% (-0.2% y/y). In chained 2005 dollars, the deficit in goods fell to $44.4B. Real imports fell 2.8% (-4.4% y/y) while real exports were off 0.9% (-1.5% y/y) .

The constant dollar value of motor vehicle exports fell 2.7% (+0.8% y/y). Real exports of foods, feeds and beverages declined 7.4% (-7.0% y/y) while real exports of nonauto consumer goods exports were off 1.4% (+0.4% y/y). Real capital goods exports slipped 0.6% (-4.0% y/y). Services exports ticked up 0.2% (2.3% y/y). Travel exports gained 0.5% (2.6% y/y) as the dollar's low value prompted more visits to the U.S. from abroad.

The quantity of petroleum product imports rose 7.4% m/m but was down 15.6% y/y. The price of crude oil rose m/m to $96.95 from $95.96 yet was down from $107.95 one year earlier. Real imports less petroleum fell 2.9% in March (-2.9% y/y). Real auto imports fell 2.7% (-1.4% y/y) while real consumer goods excluding autos declined 7.3% (-4.4% y/y). The constant dollar value of capital goods imports was off 3.3% (-5.8% y/y) and real imports of foods, feeds & beverages fell 1.2% (+5.9% y/y). Nominal services imports slipped 0.1% (-0.8% y/y) as travel imports increased 2.1% (-2.2% y/y).

By country, the March trade deficit in goods with mainland China fell sharply month-to-month to $17.9B. Exports to China fell 4.0% y/y while U.S. imports were off 13.3% y/y. With Japan, the deficit deepened to $6.6B. U.S. exports fell 9.1% y/y while imports were off 8.7% y/y. The deficit with the European Union deepened to $9.9. U.S. exports fell 8.6% y/y and imports declined 5.9% y/y.

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) Mar Feb Jan Y/Y 2012 2011 2010
U.S. Trade Deficit $38.8B $43.6B $44.5B $51.7B
$539.5B $559.9B $494.7B
Exports (%) -0.9 0.9 -1.2 -0.2 4.3 14.2 16.7
Imports -2.8 0.3 1.8 -5.6 2.7 13.9 19.4
  Petroleum -4.4 -5.5 12.4 -20.7 -5.5 30.7 32.5
  Nonpetroleum goods -3.0 1.2 -0.0 -3.0 5.2 12.1 20.8
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