Tags: trade | gap | economy | deficit

Trade Gap Widened in December to Largest in Two Years

Thursday, 05 February 2015 08:48 AM

The U.S. trade deficit increased unexpectedly in December to a two-year high on a pickup in imports of motor vehicles and fewer shipments overseas.

The gap widened 17.1 percent to $46.6 billion, the biggest shortfall since November 2012, from a revised $39.8 billion in November, the Commerce Department reported Thursday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 68 economists called for a $38 billion deficit.

Companies imported a record $48.8 billion in consumer goods along with more industrial supplies and capital equipment, showing U.S. demand is holding up as global economies cool. Progress toward reducing the trade gap will probably be difficult because of slower demand from overseas markets and a rally in the U.S. dollar.

“The consumer is coming back to life, so that suggests we should import more,” Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies LLC in New York, said before the report.

“The U.S. is the shining star among global economies. We’re generating much faster economic growth, much faster job growth than any other of the major Western countries and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.”

Bloomberg survey estimates ranged from trade deficits of $35 billion to $44.4 billion. The Commerce Department initially reported a $39 billion shortfall in November.

For all of 2014, the trade gap widened 6 percent to $505 billion. Last year, the U.S. petroleum deficit, adjusted for changes in prices, was the lowest ever, while the non-oil shortfall was the highest in eight years.

Other reports released at the same time showed claims for jobless benefits rose last week and worker productivity declined in the fourth quarter.

Applications for unemployment insurance payments increased by 11,000 to 278,000 in the period ended Jan. 31, the Labor Department reported in Washington.

Exports fell 0.8 percent to $194.9 billion in December. Shipments of non-monetary gold dropped by $1.2 billion, while exports of petroleum also declined.

Imports increased 2.2 percent to a record $241.4 billion in December. Inbound shipments of motor vehicles climbed $938 million. Imports of industrial materials, including crude oil, also rose.

After eliminating the effects of price fluctuations, which generates the numbers used to calculate gross domestic product, the trade deficit widened to $54.7 billion in December from $48.7 billion a month earlier.

A report last week showed economic growth cooled in the fourth quarter, largely driven by a drop in exports, more imports and slower business investment, even as consumers ramped up spending. GDP rose at a 2.6 percent annualized rate following a 5 percent pace in the third quarter, Commerce Department figures showed.

In its advance estimate of GDP, the agency said trade subtracted 1 percentage point from growth.

The trade gap with China, the world’s second-biggest economy, widened in 2014 to an all-time high of $342.6 billion. The U.S. also had a record gap with the European Union.

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The U.S. trade deficit increased unexpectedly in December to a two-year high on a pickup in imports of motor vehicles and fewer shipments overseas.
trade, gap, economy, deficit
Thursday, 05 February 2015 08:48 AM
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