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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Narrows as Exports & Imports Decline
by Tom Moeller  June 6, 2019

The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services eased during April to $50.8 billion from $51.9 in March, revised from $50.0 billion. Expectations had been for a $50.7 billion deficit in the Action Economics Survey. Exports declined 2.2% (-1.0% y/y) following a 0.8% rise during March. Imports also fell 2.2% (+0.2% y/y) after rising 1.4%. The deficit on merchandise trade eased m/m to $71.7 billion in April while the surplus on services trade increased marginally to $20.9 billion.

Goods exports declined 3.1% in April after increasing by roughly 1.0% for three straight months. Exports of capital goods fell 5.7% (-3.2% y/y) after a 1.9% drop and automotive exports declined 5.4% (-5.0% y/y) following a 0.3% improvement. Exports of nonauto consumer goods were off 3.1% (+0.4% y/y) after three months of firm gain. Industrial supplies & materials exports eased 0.1% (-2.6% y/y) following a 3.6% rise while exports of foods, feeds & beverages strengthened 1.0% (-2.4% y/y) after a 4.4% jump.

Imports of goods declined 2.5% (-1.0% y/y) following a 1.6% rise. Automotive imports were off 3.1% (+2.2% y/y) after a 0.7% rise. Capital goods imports weakened 3.0% (-2.9% y/y) after a 0.5% gain. Nonauto consumer goods imports declined 2.0% (+3.9% y/y) following a 1.3% drop. Imports of industrial supplies fell 1.4% (-6.9% y/y) after a 5.8% strengthening. Food, feeds & beverage imports fell 1.1% (+4.6% y/y) following an 8.9% surge.

Petroleum imports surged 3.9% m/m in April (-6.0% y/y) on top of an 11.4% m/m March gain. The value of crude oil imports surged 12.9% (-8.7% y/y) after an even stronger March increase as the price rose to $57.16 per barrel from $42.59 three months earlier. Nonpetroleum imports eased 3.1% (-0.4% y/y) after a 0.9% rise. In constant dollars, petroleum imports fell 2.0% (-9.6% y/y) while nonpetroleum imports declined 2.7% (+0.2% y/y).

Services exports fell 0.3% (+2.0% y/y) in April after rising 0.5%. Exports of charges for the use of intellectual property fell 0.3% (-4.1% y/y) and travel exports eased 0.6% (+2.1% y/y). Services imports fell 0.6% (+5.5% y/y) and reversed the March increase. Imports of the use of intellectual property rose 0.3% (8.1% y/y). Travel imports declined 0.6% (+7.3% y/y).

The trade deficit with China eased to $26.9 billion in April from $27.8 billion twelve months earlier. Exports declined by one-quarter y/y while imports fell 9.2% y/y. The trade deficit with the European Union increased sharply to $17.7 billion from $14.7 billion twelve months earlier. Exports rose 2.0% y/y and imports gained 8.5% y/y. The trade deficit with Japan deepened sharply to $7.2 billion from $6.2 billion twelve months earlier as U.S. exports fell 1.9% y/y and imports rose 7.5% y/y.

The international trade data as well as oil prices can be found in Haver's USECON database. Detailed figures on international trade are available in the USINT database. The expectations figures are from the Action Economics Forecast Survey, which is carried in AS1REPNA.

Foreign Trade in Goods & Services (Current $) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
U.S. Trade Deficit ($ bil.) 50.8 51.9 50.0 48.2
(4/18)
627.7 550.1 503.0
Exports of Goods & Services (% Chg) -2.2 0.8 1.1 -1.0 6.3 6.2 -2.2
Imports of Goods & Services (% Chg) -2.2 1.4 -0.2 0.2 7.8 6.8 -1.7
  Petroleum (% Chg) 3.9 11.4 5.2 -6.0 20.8 27.2 -19.5
  Nonpetroleum Goods (% Chg) -3.1 0.9 -0.7 -0.4 7.5 5.5 -1.2
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