The Census Bureau released data which showed a relatively small decline in exports for April, after revisions. Imports were also down in April compared to March, after revisions.
Using the unrevised data, the slowdown in global trade appears to be much more significant.
U.S. exports fell by 2.6 percent in April compared to the unrevised data from March. Imports fell 2.3 percent before revisions.
March data was overstated by more than 2 percent in each category and gave an overly optimistic view of the economy.
The slowdown appears to be broad based. Exports fell in every major category except mining. Imports were also down in all major categories, with the exception of an increase in the amount of money spent on oil. Higher oil prices offset a small decline in the use of oil. Oil imports from OPEC countries rose while the US imported less oil from Canada and non-OPEC members.
Weak data confirmed the opinion of Aneta Markowska, chief U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who told Bloomberg before the report that, “The contribution from trade will be fairly neutral over the year. We could see a slowdown but not an outright collapse in exports as global growth slows.”
Europe accounts for nearly one-sixth of U.S. trade and the slowdown there will have a negative impact on the U.S. economy. Export activity has fallen back to the level it was at last fall, before the demise of the euro seemed imminent.
Without gains in exports, employment, with or without revisions, is unlikely to improve in the coming months.
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