Trade deficit narrows sharply, points to stronger GDP
February 9, 2013 12:42 AM EST
The U.S. trade deficit shrank in December to its narrowest in nearly three years, suggesting the economy did much better in the fourth quarter than initially estimated.
The country's trade gap narrowed to $38.5 billion during the month, the Commerce Department said on Friday. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a deficit of $46 billion.
That suggests the U.S. government will revise upward its advance reading for fourth-quarter gross domestic product, which showed the economy contracted at a 0.1 percent annual rate in part because of a decline in inflation-adjusted exports.
The government had released its estimate for fourth-quarter GDP before the December trade data was available. That GDP report suggested the government was projecting a wider trade deficit in December.
Friday's data showed U.S. exports surged by $8.6 billion during the month, boosted by sales of industrial supplies, including a $1.2 billion increase of non-monetary gold. In a reflection of a boom in oil output driven by hydraulic fracturing technologies, petroleum exports rose by nearly $1 billion during the month to a record high level.
A fall in petroleum imports led overall purchases from abroad to decline $4.6 billion in December. For the entire year, the country's imports of crude oil fell to their lowest levels since 1997 in terms of volume.
For all of 2012, the U.S. trade gap fell by 3.5 percent to $540.4 billion. Running trade deficits means the country bleeds dollars, so trade is still a drag on the U.S. economy. But rising exports are helping it to be less of a drag than in prior years.
Exports last year rose 4.4 percent.
While the overall trade deficit shrank, it grew with China during the year. That will be sure to raise hackles from American manufacturers who want the United States to pressure the Asian giant more to strengthen its currency.
But even the figures on China had a silver lining. While U.S. imports last year from China increased to a record high, so did America's exports to the country. America's December trade deficit with China for goods, which was not seasonally adjusted, narrowed by $4.5 billion on a drop in imports.
The U.S. trade deficit increased with the European Union last year but America's surplus with Brazil rose.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Neil Stempleman)
Most Popular Slideshows
- ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Season 7 Finale Spoilers: Kurt Sutter On Ending The Biker Series And Picking The Right Song For The Final Ride
- Prince Charles’ Wife Camilla Parker-Bowles In Drug Scandal - Reports
- Prince Harry Kissing Mystery Blond, Cressida Bonas & Camilla Thurlow Are Distant Memory
- St. Louis Rams 28, Seattle Seahawks 26 [PHOTOS]
Join the Conversation
- Tourre on stand says email in SEC case 'not accurate'
- Syrian authorities blocking access to needy in Homs - Red Cross
- Faith in European Union at low ebb, EU poll says
- Former UBS banker gets 18 months, $1 million fine, for muni bid-rigging scheme
- U.S. judge halts challenges to Detroit's bankruptcy bid
- Galaxy Note 4 vs Redmi Note 2 vs iPhone 6: Samsung in Danger with Depressing Q3
- iOS 8 Jailbreak Release Date Likely this October 2014 with Pangu not Evad3rs Firming Up as Creator
- Apple Inc. (AAPL) Stock Set to Soar Beyond $100 Despite Decline After New iPad Launch
- Russia Beefs Up Gold Reserves To Offset Heat of Sanctions And Undercut Dollar
- Top 4 Free-To-Download Apps for Fuller iPhone 6, 6 Plus Experience
- Battery Saving Android 5.0 Lollipop Feature Extends The Battery Life Of Your Android Device By 90 Minutes And Displays Orange Bar While Power Saving Mode Is On
- Australia's 'No Way' Anti-Asylum Seeker Poster Sparks Outrage