The U.S. Department of Commerce announced this week that total August exports fell $1.9 billion from July down to $181.3 billion, the lowest level in six months. Imports also fell in August, but only by $0.2 billion, resulting in a 4.1% increase in the nation's trade deficit, which widened to $44.2 billion in August from July's revised figure of $42.5 billion.
Responsibility for the 1% decline falls solely on the goods sector, where exports decreased by $2.1 billion between July and August. The service sector saw a $0.2 billion increase in exports, resulting in a monthly all-time record at $52.8 billion. Decreases in the goods sector came primarily from fewer exports of industrial supplies and materials, which fell $1.2 billion in August, and of foods, feeds and beverages, which fell $1.1 billion.
Wider trade deficits are often considered a drag on economic growth as it indicates that U.S. companies are earning less on their overseas sales, while U.S. consumers are spending more money on products manufactured abroad. Nonetheless, exports remain at historically high levels, having grown at an annualized rate of 12.7% over the last 12 months compared to 2009. Total exports over the last year are valued at $2.173 trillion, which is nearly 37.6% above the total level of exports in 2009.
As of August's figures, the top ten buying countries with the largest annualized increases in purchases of U.S. goods, compared to 2009, were Panama (34.9%), Chile (27.8%), Argentina (26.3%), Turkey (26.3%), Russia (25.7%), Hong Kong (25.6%), Peru (25.3%), the United Arab Emirates (21.8%), Ecuador (21.6%) and Venezuela (20.9%).
- Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer