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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Narrows Sharply To Lowest Since 2009
by Tom Moeller  January 7, 2014

The U.S. foreign trade deficit improved to $33.4 billion during November compared to a revised $39.3 billion in October, last month reported as $40.6 billion. The November deficit was the lowest since October 2009. A $40.0 billion deficit had been expected in the Action Economics survey. One driver behind the lower deficit was a 1.4% drop (-1.1% y/y) in November imports which followed a 0.1% uptick. Also, exports added 0.9% (5.2% y/y) to October's 2.0% rise. In chained 2009 dollars, the deficit in goods fell to $44.6 billion. Real imports fell 1.0% (-0.0% y/y) while real exports increased 0.5% (7.1% y/y).

The value of U.S. petroleum imports declined 11.2% (-15.1% y/y) as the quantity of petroleum product imports was off 13.2% (-13.1% y/y). In addition, the price of crude oil backed off m/m to $94.69 from $99.96 and remained down from the $109.69 high reached last year. In constant dollars, imports less petroleum were unchanged in November (2.3% y/y). Real imports of foods, feeds and beverages fell 2.4% (-1.7% y/y) while real nonauto consumer goods imports inched 0.3% lower (-0.2% y/y). Real automotive imports gained 4.0% (7.8% y/y) and real capital goods imports improved 1.8% (5.9% y/y). Services imports nudged up 0.2% (2.7% y/y). Travel imports declined 0.5% (+5.1% y/y) but passenger fares improved 0.5% (12.0% y/y).

The constant dollar value of auto exports gained 1.1% (5.6% y/y) and real capital goods exports nudged up 0.6% (1.8% y/y). The real value of nonauto consumer goods exports declined 3.2% (+5.3% y/y) while real exports of foods, feeds & beverages inched 0.7% lower (+16.6% y/y). Services exports improved 0.5% (4.0% y/y). Travel exports gained 0.6% (8.0% y/y) as the dollar's low value encouraged visits to the U.S. Passenger fares increased 1.8% (3.4% y/y).

The November trade deficit in goods with mainland China improved to $26.9 billion. Exports to China jumped 24.6% y/y while U.S. imports nudged 1.4% higher y/y. With Japan, the deficit lessened to $5.8 billion. U.S. exports gained 1.8% y/y but imports were down 1.4% y/y. The deficit with the European Union eased to $10.1 billion. U.S. exports increased 7.1% y/y though imports declined 1.8% 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) Nov Oct Sep Y/Y 2012 2011 2010
U.S. Trade Deficit $33.4B $39.3B $43.0B $46.4B
$534.7B $556.8B $499.4B
Exports (%) 0.9 2.0 -0.1 5.2 4.6 14.5 16.9
Imports -1.4 0.1 1.6 -1.1 2.8 13.9 19.5
  Petroleum -11.2 1.2 2.7 -15.1 -5.6 30.7 32.5
  Nonpetroleum goods 0.1 -0.4 2.1 1.0 5.2 12.1 20.8
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