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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Holds Steady
by Tom Moeller  March 7, 2014

The U.S. foreign trade deficit remained at $39.1 billion in January versus December's $39.0 billion, last month reported as $38.7 billion. A $38.5 billion deficit had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Both exports and imports rose 0.6%. In chained 2009 dollars, the deficit in goods improved in January to $48.5 billion from $49.2 billion. Real exports increased 0.8% (3.1% y/y) while real imports in January ticked up 0.1% (1.9% y/y).

The constant dollar value of auto exports fell 1.9% (-0.2% y/y) but the real value of nonauto consumer goods exports gained 2.4% (1.0% y/y). Real capital goods exports improved 1.0% (0.3% y/y) but real exports of foods, feeds & beverages plunged 5.1% (+7.5% y/y). Services exports improved 0.3% (4.9% y/y). Travel exports fell 0.6% (+7.5% y/y) as the dollar's value encouraged U.S. visits. Passenger fares declined 2.8% (+4.4% y/y).

The value of U.S. petroleum imports gained 8.9% (-8.2% y/y) in January. The quantity of petroleum product imports rose 9.3% (-4.7% y/y) but the price of crude oil slipped m/m to $90.21, down from the $109.69 high reached in April 2012. In constant dollars, nonpetroleum imports fell 1.0% (+3.0% y/y). Real automotive imports declined 5.6% (+6.6% y/y); real imports of foods, feeds and beverages rose 2.0% (-1.0% y/y); and real capital goods imports improved 0.5% (5.1% y/y). Real nonauto consumer goods imports declined 2.7% (+0.9% y/y). Services imports declined 1.0% (+4.2% y/y). Travel imports were off 2.8% (+4.4% y/y) and passenger fares fell 5.6% (+8.5% y/y).

The January trade deficit in goods with mainland China deteriorated to $27.8 billion. Exports to China jumped 10.4% y/y while imports rose 2.8% y/y. With Japan, the deficit eased to $5.3 billion. U.S. exports improved 8.0% y/y but imports were down 3.2% y/y. The deficit with the European Union lessened to $8.8 billion. U.S. exports increased 6.2% y/y while imports rose 4.0% 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) Jan Dec Nov Y/Y 2013 2012 2011
U.S. Trade Deficit $39.1 bil. $39.0 bil. $35.2 bil. $42.1 bil.
(1/13)
$474.9 bil. $534.7 bil. $556.8 bil.
Exports (%) 0.6 -1.7 0.8 3.0 2.8 4.6 14.5
Imports 0.6 0.2 -1.3 1.2 0.0 2.8 13.9
  Petroleum 9.0 2.1 -11.2 -6.7 -10.9 -5.6 30.7
  Nonpetroleum goods -0.6 -0.4 0.3 2.1 2.0 5.2 12.1
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