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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Deepens as West Coast Ports Reopen
by Tom Moeller  May 5, 2015

The U.S. foreign trade deficit in goods and services increased during March to $51.4 billion from $35.9 billion in February, revised from $35.4 billion. A deficit of $41.0 billion had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

Imports surged 7.7% (0.9% y/y) following a 4.2% February decline. Resolution of a West Coast labor dispute raised nonpetroleum imports by 10.8% (9.3% y/y) after a 4.0% drop. Imports of nonauto consumer goods jumped 20.0% (16.7% y/y) following a 3.3% fall while auto & parts imports increased 10.2% (9.9% y/y) after a 5.8% decline. Capital goods imports rebounded 8.3% (8.9% y/y) following a 4.9% drop. Foods, feeds & beverage imports gained 7.0% (4.2% y/y) on the heels of a 3.1% drop. Services imports moved 1.9% higher (6.9% y/y) after a 0.1% slip, reflecting a 1.5% rise (10.6% y/y) in travel following little change.

Petroleum imports declined 6.7% (-49.6% y/y) with lower crude oil prices. In constant dollars, petroleum imports fell 1.0% (-3.4% y/y). The average per barrel cost of crude oil fell to $46.47 (-50.5% y/y), the lowest level since March 2009. The value of energy-related petroleum product imports increased 8.3% (-49.1% y/y) as their quantity rebounded 14.4% (-1.0% y/y).

Overall exports improved 0.9% (-3.3% y/y) following four straight months of decline. Auto exports recovered 6.9% (-4.4% y/y) after an 8.4% drop. Capital goods exports rebounded 3.3% (-1.3% y/y) making up most of a 3.6% decline and auto exports rose 6.9% (-4.4% y/y) following an 8.4% shortfall. Foods, feeds & beverage exports gained 3.1% (-11.8% y/y) after a 1.8% drop while nonauto consumer goods exports declined 9.5% (-1.6% y/y) after a 7.9% rise. Industrial supplies & materials exports gained 0.9% (-12.9% y/y) following a 3.7% drop. Services exports improved 0.3% (4.2% y/y) but travel exports were off 0.7% (+1.8% y/y).

By country, the trade deficit in goods with China deepened sharply m/m to $31.2 billion. Exports fell 8.7% y/y while imports increased by nearly one-third y/y. The deficit with Japan increased to $7.1 billion as exports fell 5.1% y/y but imports gained 7.3% y/y. The trade deficit with the European Union rose sharply to $12.7 billion. Exports declined 1.5% y/y and imports rose 2.2% 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 Forecast Survey, which is carried in the AS1REPNA.

Foreign Trade (Current Dollars) Mar Feb Jan Y/Y 2014 2013 2012
U.S. Trade Deficit $51.4 bil. $35.9 bil. $42.7 bil. $42.8 bil.
(3/14)
$504.7 $476.4 bil. $537.6 bil.
Exports (% Chg) 0.9 -1.6 -3.0 -3.3 2.8 2.9 4.2
Imports 7.7 -4.2 -3.6 0.9 3.4 0.1 2.9
  Petroleum -6.7 -15.3 -21.9 -49.6 -9.7 -11.0 -5.5
  Nonpetroleum 10.8 -4.0 -1.5 9.3 5.9 2.0 5.2
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