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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Widens to $68.2 Billion in January
by Kathleen Stephansen  March 5, 2021

• Exports grow 1%. Imports rise 1.2%.

• This report suggests little impact on Q1 GDP forecasts.

The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services widened to $68.2 billion in January from a slight upwardly revised $67 billion deficit in December (was $66.6 billion). The November deficit stood at $69.0 billion. The Action Economics Forecast Survey had anticipated a $67.3 billion deficit. Given the relatively small changes in the monthly deficits, the January report is unlikely to significantly change one's Q1 GDP estimates. Exports gained 1% (-7.6% year-over-year), while imports rose 1.2% (+3.2% year-over-year).

The nominal deficit in goods trade rose to $85.4 billion in January from $84.1 billion in December. The advanced trade data reported earlier showed an $83.7 billion goods deficit. Exports of goods rose 1.6% (-1% year-over-year), with only two of the main categories posting monthly gains (industrial supplies and capital goods). Imports of goods rose 1.6% (+8.5% year-over-year). Four of the five major categories of goods imports increased and one declined. Petroleum import volumes rose 3.1% in January (-4.3% year-over-year. The real (inflation-adjusted) goods trade deficit rose to $96.5 billion (chained-weighted 2012$) in January from a downwardly-revised $95 billion in December.

The January surplus on trade in services rose to $17.2 billion from a slight downwardly-revised $17.2 billion in December (was $17.5 billion). The value of services exports declined 0.5% (-20.3% year-over-year), led by a 2.8% decline in travel (-68.8% year-over-year). Imports of services declined 0.9% over the month (-19.1% year-over-year), driven by declines in transport, travel and maintenance and repair services.

The goods trade deficit with China narrowed slightly in January to $27.2 billion from 28.1 billion in December. Exports were up 10.2% (+92.7 year-over-year) and imports rose 1% (+34% year-over-year). The trade deficits with the European Union stood at $20.1 billion and with Japan at $5.2 billion.

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 $) Jan Dec Nov Jan'20 2020 2019 2018
U.S. Trade Deficit ($ bil.) 68.21 66.97 69.04 44.38 681.70 576.86 579.94
Exports of Goods & Services (% Chg) 1.0 3.4 1.2 -7.6 -15.9 -0.4 6.4
Imports of Goods & Services (% Chg) 1.2 1.7 3.0 3.2 -9.5 -0.5 7.5
  Petroleum (% Chg) 15.9 10.6 1.7 -20.7 -39.9 -14.0 20.8
  Nonpetroleum Goods (% Chg) 0.9 0.9 3.2 11.1 -3.6 -0.4 7.4
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