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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Is Little Changed as Exports & Imports Ease
by Tom Moeller  May 4, 2017

The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services of $43.7 billion during March compared to $43.8 billion in February, initially reported as $43.6 billion. Expectations had been for a $44.7 billion deficit in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Total exports fell 0.9% (+7.0% y/y) after a 0.1% uptick. Imports were off 0.7% (+8.8% y/y) following a 1.8% decline. During all of Q1, the deficit averaged $45.2 billion after $44.1 billion in Q4'16. As a result, net exports of goods & services subtracted 0.07 percentage points from real GDP growth.

Merchandise exports declined 1.4% (+7.9% y/y) following a 0.3% rise. Nonauto consumer goods exports fell 3.4% (+5.7% y/y). Auto & parts exports declined 6.2% (+7.1% y/y), while industrial supplies & materials exports were off 4.6% (+19.3% y/y). Increasing were exports of foods, feeds & beverages by 2.8% (19.4% y/y) and capital goods exports by 1.6% (0.1% y/y).

Services exports increased 0.6% (5.1% y/y). The value of charges for the use of intellectual property held steady (1.7% y/y). Financial services exports strengthened 1.5% (13.2% y/y) while travel exports rose 0.3% (3.3% y/y).

A 0.9% decline (+9.9% y/y) in merchandise imports was paced by a 4.7% fall (+70.6% y/y) in the value of petroleum imports. The quantity of energy-related petroleum product imports rose 7.6% y/y. Crude petroleum prices rose 67.1% y/y to an average $46.26 per barrel.

The value of nonpetroleum imports fell by 0.5% (+6.3% y/y). Motor vehicle & parts imports increased 3.9% (7.2% y/y) but nonauto consumer goods imports fell 1.1% (+4.7% y/y). Imports of industrial supplies & materials were off 1.6% (+30.2% y/y). Capital goods imports declined 1.8% (+6.8% y/y), while foods, feeds & beverage imports declined 4.4% (+4.9% y/y).

Services imports eased 0.1% (+4.3% y/y). The value of charges for use of intellectual property rose 0.4% (11.9% y/y). Financial services imports held steady (8.8% y/y) and travel imports gained eased 0.2% (+4.5% y/y).

By country, the trade deficit with China deepened to $24.6 billion from $20.9 billion last March. Exports to China rose 7.5% y/y while imports rose 14.6% y/y. The trade deficit with Japan deepened to $7.2 billion from $6.7 billion twelve months earlier. Exports to Japan increased 7.8% y/y and imports gained 7.9% y/y. The trade deficit with the European Union eased to $11.2 billion versus $13.1 billion one year earlier. Exports rose 4.4% y/y while imports eased 2.1% y/y. These country data are not seasonally adjusted.

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 in Goods & Services (Current Dollars) Mar Feb Jan Y/Y 2016 2015 2014
U.S. Trade Deficit $43.7 bil. $43.8 bil. $48.2 bil. $37.3 bil.
(3/16)
$500.6 bil. $500.4 bil. $490.2 bil.
Exports of Goods & Services (% Chg) -0.9 0.1 0.8 7.0 -2.2 -4.9 3.6
Imports of Goods & Services (% Chg) -0.7 -1.8 2.3 8.8 -1.8 -3.7 4.0
  Petroleum (% Chg) -4.7 3.8 18.5 70.6 -19.5 -45.5 -9.6
  Nonpetroleum Goods (% Chg) -0.5 -2.6 1.3 6.3 -1.2 2.2 6.5
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