Trade Deficit Rises for Second Straight Month

On January 6, 2017, in Trade Deficit, by Maggie Ernst

The U.S. trade deficit widened for a second straight month in November as imports rose to their highest level in more than a year on higher oil prices, suggesting that trade was a significant drag on economic growth in the fourth quarter, according to a Reuters report.

The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap increased 6.8 percent to $45.2 billion. October’s trade deficit was revised down slightly to $42.4 billion from the previously reported $42.6 billion.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade gap little changed at $42.5 billion in November. When adjusted for inflation, the deficit increased to $63.6 billion from $60.3 billion in October.

Trade contributed 0.85 percentage point to the third quarter’s 3.5 percent annualized rate of increase in gross domestic product. Economists expect trade will slice off more than one percentage point from GDP growth in the fourth quarter.

Despite the drag from trade, growth in the fourth quarter is expected to have been supported by consumer spending, a firming housing market and rising gas and oil well drilling. The Atlanta Federal Reserve is currently forecasting GDP rising at a 2.9 percent rate in the fourth quarter.

Imports of goods and services increased 1.1 percent to $231.1 billion in November, the highest level since August 2015. Part of the increase in the import bill reflects higher oil prices.

Inflation-adjusted petroleum imports were the highest since November 2012.

There were also increases in imports of industrial supplies and materials, which rose to their highest level since July 2015.

Imports of goods from China fell 2.7 percent in November.


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