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Economy in Brief

U.S. Trade Deficit Increases to Highest Since 2008
by Tom Moeller  April 5, 2018

The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services widened to $57.6 billion during February from $56.7 billion in January, revised from $56.6 billion. It was the largest deficit since October 2009. A $56.7 billion deficit had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Exports increased 1.7% (6.6% y/y) following a 1.3% decline while imports also rose 1.7% (10.9% y/y) after no change.

The deficit on goods trade increased to $77.0 billion, the biggest since July 2008. Exports of goods gained 2.3% (7.5% y/y) following a 2.2% decline. A 6.7% rise (9.1% y/y) in exports of motor vehicles & parts led the increase as it followed a 3.6% gain. Exports in industrial supplies & materials gained 4.9% (13.4% y/y) after a 3.2% decline. Capital goods exports were up 1.5% (6.5% y/y) on the heels of a 5.4% decline. Foods, feeds & beverage exports ticked 0.1% higher (4.2% y/y) after a 0.7% decline. Exports of nonauto consumer goods declined 4.7% (+0.4% y/y) following a 7.0% rise.

Imports of goods increased 1.7% in February (11.1% y/y) following a 0.1% easing. Foods, feeds & beverage imports surged 6.5% (12.2% y/y) after a 0.1% dip. Capital goods imports recovered 3.3% (13.4% y/y) following a 2.3% decline. Industrial supplies & materials imports gained 1.7% (9.5% y/y) after a 4.4% jump. Nonauto consumer product imports rose 0.9% (13.7% y/y) following a 1.6% decline. Motor vehicle & parts imports gained 0.5% (7.1% y/y) after a 0.1% uptick.

All non-petroleum goods imports increased 1.7% (11.6% y/y) after a 1.6% decline. Petroleum imports increased 1.3% (6.4% y/y) following January's 20.8% jump. The per barrel cost of crude oil eased to $54.61 (+20.7% y/y) from the highest level since January 2015. Nevertheless, the value of energy-related petroleum product imports declined 17.0% (+5.0% y/y) after a 20.8% jump. The quantity of energy-related product imports fell 17.1% (-12.9% y/y) after a 14.9% rise.

The surplus on services trade declined to $19.4 billion in February from $20.0 billion and compared to $20.9 billion surplus in February 2017. Services exports increased 0.7% (4.8% y/y) after a 0.6% rise. Travel exports increased 0.7% (-0.1% y/y) after a 1.0% increase. Charges for the use of intellectual property gained 0.7% (13.6% y/y) after a 0.8% rise. Transport exports gained 2.3% (6.1% y/y) following a 0.9% rise.

Imports of services strengthened 2.3% (10.6% y/y) after a 0.3% advance. Charges for the use of intellectual property surged 23.3% (34.0% y/y) after a 0.9% gain. U.S. residents' travel abroad declined 1.4% (+3.7% y/y) following a 2.1% retreat. Transport charges rose 1.3% (6.8% y/y) for a second straight month.

By country, the goods trade deficit with China narrowed to $29.3 billion in February (NSA) after $36.0 billion in January. Exports rose 0.1% y/y and imports jumped 10.2% y/y. The deficit with the European Union narrowed to $12.0 billion (NSA) from $13.6 billion. Exports increased 8.6% y/y and imports rose 14.3% y/y. The trade deficit with Japan eased to $5.5 billion as exports rose 2.2% y/y and imports increased 9.6% y/y.

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 AS1REPNA.

Foreign Trade in Goods & Services (Current Dollars) Feb Jan Dec Y/Y 2017 2016 2015
U.S. Trade Deficit $57.6 bil. $56.7 bil. $53.9 bil. $48.4 bil.
(2/17)
$568.4 bil. $504.8 bil. $500.4 bil.
Exports of Goods & Services (% Chg) 1.7 -1.3 1.7 6.6 5.6 -2.5 -4.7
Imports of Goods & Services (% Chg) 1.7 0.0 2.6 10.9 6.9 -1.9 -3.6
  Petroleum (% Chg) 1.3 20.8 -6.2 6.4 27.0 -19.4 -45.5
  Nonpetroleum Goods (% Chg) 1.7 -1.6 3.7 11.6 5.7 -1.2 2.2
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