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Economy in Brief

Goods Trade Deficit Narrowed in April Advance Report
by Sandy Batten  May 28, 2021

• Foreign trade deficit narrowed for the first time in four months.

• Exports rose while imports fell.

The advance estimate of the U.S. trade deficit in goods narrowed markedly to $85.23 billion in April from a record $91.98 billion in March. The Action Economics Forecast Survey had looked for a deficit of $92.0 billion. The narrowing in April was the largest since January 2019. Exports increased 1.2% m/m (50.4% y/y) in April on top of a 10.0% m/m gain in March. By contrast, imports fell 2.2% m/m (+37.2% y/y) in April after a 7.7% m/m increase in March. Net exports subtracted 1.2%-points from Q1 GDP growth. The marked narrowing of the goods trade deficit in April points to net exports nearly reversing that in Q2.

By end-use category, the rise in exports was led by a 4.8% m/m gain in exports of capital goods excluding autos on top of an 8.5% m/m increase in March. Industrial supplies exports also added to their March gains, rising 1.7% m/m in April after a 12.5% monthly jump in March. Exports of automotive vehicles and parts slumped 8.0% m/m in April, nearly reversing their 9.6% m/m gain in March. Non-auto consumer goods exports edged down 0.8% in April following a 13.5% m/m surge in March.

The April decline in imports was widespread. Of the six major end-use categories, four declined and one was essentially unchanged (a 0.2% m/m increase in imports of capital goods ex autos). Imports of foods and feeds was the only category to post a meaningful increase with a 3.4% m/m gain in April on top of a 7.1% m/m increase in March. Automotive imports declined 3.5% m/m, their third fall in the past four months, after a 7.9% m/m rebound in March. Non-auto consumer goods imports slipped 4.2% m/m in April following an 8.4% m/m jump in March. Imports of industrial supplies fell 1.8% m/m in April, their first decline in seven months.

The advance international trade data can be found in Haver's USECON database. The expectation figure is from the Action Economics Forecast Survey, which is in AS1REPNA.

Advance U.S. Foreign Trade in Goods (Customs Value $) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
U.S. Trade Balance ($ bil.) -85.23 -91.98 -88.21 -71.34 (4/20) -904.93 -854.37 -872.04
Exports (% Chg) 1.2 10.0 -4.1 50.4 -12.8 -1.4 7.7
Imports (% Chg) -2.2 7.7 -0.8 37.2 -6.4 -1.6 8.5

Note: Current month is based on Advance Trade data; Previous months reflect revised data from International Trade release.

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