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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Remains Fairly Constant
by Tom Moeller  October 24, 2013

The U.S. foreign trade deficit totaled $38.8 billion in August compared to a revised $38.6 billion during July, initially reported as $39.1 billion. A $39.3 billion deficit had been expected in the Action Economics survey. Exports slipped 0.1% (+3.9% y/y) following a 0.6% decline during July. Imports were unchanged (0.9% y/y) after a 1.3% July rise. In chained 2009 dollars, the deficit in goods also was roughly stable at $47.3 billion. Real exports slipped 0.3% (+4.4% y/y) while real imports edged 0.3% lower (+1.2% y/y).

The constant dollar value of auto exports rose 5.6% (7.2% y/y). Nonauto consumer goods exports rebounded 2.6% (5.1% y/y) while real capital goods exports nudged 0.5% higher (0.6% y/y). Services exports improved 0.3% (5.9% y/y). Travel exports increased 1.2% (7.9% y/y) as the dollar's low value encouraged more visits to the U.S. from abroad. Passenger fares gained 1.0% (1.1% y/y).

The value of petroleum imports declined 1.1% (-6.1% y/y) as the quantity of petroleum product imports was off 7.4% (-11.0% y/y). The price of crude oil moved up m/m to $100.26 but remained down from the $109.69 high reached last year. Real imports less petroleum gained 0.1% in August (2.7% y/y). In constant dollars, imports of nonauto consumer goods fell 1.7% (+3.2% y/y). Real imports of automotive vehicles edged 0.8% lower (+5.3% y/y) but real capital goods imports rose 2.3% (3.9% y/y). Services imports were up 0.5% (1.0% y/y). Travel imports increased 2.4% (7.9% y/y) but passenger fares slipped 0.3% (+7.5% y/y).

By country, the August trade deficit in goods with mainland China, at $29.9 billion, remained near a record depth. Exports to China rose 7.7% y/y while U.S. imports increased 5.1% y/y. With Japan, the deficit improved modestly to $6.4 billion, still nearly its deepest in five years. U.S. exports fell 9.3% y/y and imports dropped 6.8% y/y. The deficit with the European Union rebounded to $9.8 billion and offset its sharp July deterioration. U.S. exports increased 0.5% y/y while imports declined 4.6% 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) Aug Jul Jun Y/Y 2012 2011 2010
U.S. Trade Deficit $-38.8B $38.6B $34.5B $44.0B
$534.7B $556.8B $499.4B
Exports (%) -0.1 -0.6 2.2 3.9 4.6 14.5 16.9
Imports 0.0 1.3 -2.2 0.9 2.8 13.9 19.5
  Petroleum -1.1 7.2 -6.1 -6.1 -5.6 30.7 32.5
  Nonpetroleum goods 0.1 0.7 -2.3 2.4 5.2 12.1 20.8
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