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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Narrows; Exports Rise, While Imports Decline
by Tom Moeller  April 4, 2017

The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services declined during February to its smallest level since October. The deficit of $43.6 bil. contrasted to $48.2 bil. in January, initially reported as $48.5 bil. Expectations had been for a $44.8 billion deficit in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Total exports improved 0.2% (6.7% y/y) while imports fell 1.8% (+4.5% y/y).

Merchandise exports gained 0.3% in value (6.7% y/y) after a 0.8% rise. Nonauto consumer goods exports jumped 4.0% (2,0% y/y). Auto & parts exports increased 1.4% (5.8% y/y), while industrial supplies & materials exports gained 1.1% (22.2% y/y). Falling were exports of foods, feeds & beverages by 6.0% (+10.4% y/y) and capital goods exports by 1.4% (-0.7% y/y).

Services exports held steady (5.0% y/y). The value of charges for the use of intellectual property improved 0.1% (1.2% y/y). Financial services exports eased 0.2% (+10.8% y/y) while travel exports rose 0.3% (3.6% y/y).

The decline in imports was led by a 2.6% fall (+0.7% y/y) in nonpetroleum imports. Motor vehicle & parts imports declined 8.3% (-0.9% y/y) while nonauto consumer goods imports retreated 5.9% (-6.2% y/y) and reversed January's increase. Imports of industrial supplies & materials gained 3.3% (27.9% y/y). Capital goods imports rose 0.2% (3.8% y/y), while foods, feeds & beverage imports increased 2.3% (2.4% y/y).

A 3.3% increase (71.2% y/y) in the value of petroleum imports reflected a 7.4% y/y rise in the quantity of energy-related petroleum product imports. Crude petroleum prices rose 64.7% y/y to an average $45.25 per barrel.

Services imports eased 0.1% (+4.0% y/y). The value of charges for use of intellectual property rose 0.6% (10.6% y/y). Financial services imports rose 0.1% (9.6% y/y) and travel imports gained eased 0.3% (+6.1% y/y).

By country, the trade deficit with China lessened to $23.0 billion from $28.1 billion last February. Exports to China declined 2.7% (+21.7% y/y) while imports fell 20.8% (=9.4% y/y). The trade deficit with Japan shrank to $4.7 billion from $5.3 billion twelve months earlier. Exports to Japan increased 4.5% y/y and imports fell 4.3% y/y. The trade deficit with the European Union declined to $9.4 billion versus $9.9 billion one year earlier. Exports rose 2.0% y/y while imports eased 0.2% y/y. These country data are not seasonally adjusted.

The international trade data can be found in Haver's USECON database. Detailed figures are available in the USINT database. The expectations figures are from the Action Economics Forecast Survey, which is carried in the AS1REPNA.

Foreign Trade in Goods & Services (Current Dollars) Feb Jan Dec Y/Y 2016 2015 2014
U.S. Trade Deficit $-43.6 bil. $48.2 bil. $44.3 bil. $45.6 bil.
(2/16)
$500.6 bil. $500.4 bil. $490.2 bil.
Exports of Goods & Services (% Chg) 0.2 0.8 2.7 6.7 -2.2 -4.9 3.6
Imports of Goods & Services (% Chg) -1.8 2.3 1.6 4.5 -1.8 -3.7 4.0
  Petroleum (% Chg) 3.3 18.5 -0.4 71.2 -19.5 -45.5 -9.6
  Nonpetroleum Goods (% Chg) -2.6 1.3 2.2 0.7 -1.2 2.2 6.5
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