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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Narrows; Exports & Imports Decline
by Tom Moeller  November 5, 2019

The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services declined to $52.45 billion in September from a little-revised $55.04 billion in August. A $52.5 billion deficit had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Exports eased 0.9% (-1.8% y/y while imports declined 1.7% (-2.8% y/y).

The trade deficit in goods fell to $71.7 billion in September from $74.4 billion in August. Exports of goods fell 1.3% (-2.7% y/y), led by a 12.3% slump (+2.6% y/y) in foods, feeds and beverages. Auto exports were off 7.0% (+2.2% y/y) while industrial supplies exports eased 0.6% (-5.5% y/y). Countering these declines was a 2.9% increase (-1.3% y/y) in exports of non-auto consumer goods and a 1.9% rise (-4.7% y/y) in capital goods exports.

Imports of goods declined 1.7% (-2.8% y/y) in September as nonpetroleum imports fell 1.9% (-2.1% y/y). Capital goods imports fell 1.9% (-6.0% y/y) and nonauto consumer goods declined 4.4% (-0.0% y/y). Automobile & parts imports fell 3.4% (-1.3% y/y). Industrial materials & supplies imports eased 1.5% (-14.8% y/y). These declines were accompanied by a 1.3% rise (4.9% y/y) in imports of foods, feeds and beverages. Petroleum imports fell 4.6% (-26.4% y/y) as the quantity of petroleum imports fell 4.9% (-14.6% y/y).

The surplus on trade in services fell to $19.3 billion, down from $21.2 billion twelve months earlier. The value of services exports eased 0.1% (+0.2% y/y). Tourism exports slipped 0.3% (-0.4% y/y), while charges for intellectual property exports declined 0.2% (-3.0% y/y). Imports of services grew 0.1% (4.3% y/y). Tourism imports held steady (3.8% y/y) and intellectual property imports rose 0.3% (7.4% y/y).

The trade deficit with China narrowed to $28.0 billion (SA) billion in September and from $36.7 billion twelve months earlier. Exports to China slumped 10.0% (-10.1% y/y) and reversed August's 7.3% rise. Imports fell 4.9% (-20.7% y/y), the fourth consecutive monthly decline. The trade deficit with the European Union was little changed at $15.7 billion. Exports fell 2.2% (+4.3% y/y) while imports fell 1.3% (+6.1% y/y). The trade deficit with Japan eased to $5.9 billion as exports fell 4.6% (-9.3% y/y) and imports declined 3.8% (+3.2% y/y).

The international trade data, including relevant data on 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 $) Sep Aug Jul Sep Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
U.S. Trade Deficit ($ bil.) 52.45 55.04 54.04 55.09
(9/18)
627.68 550.12 502.98
Exports of Goods & Services (% Chg) -0.9 0.2 0.6 -1.8 6.3 6.2 -2.2
Imports of Goods & Services (% Chg) -1.7 0.5 -0.1 -2.8 7.8 6.8 -1.7
  Petroleum (% Chg) -4.6 -7.7 0.3 -26.4 20.8 27.2 -19.4
  Nonpetroleum Goods (% Chg) -1.9 1.2 -0.3 -2.1 7.5 5.5 -1.3
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