Import Uptick Widens Trade Deficit

Despite continually strong export figures, the U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in January, driven by an uptick in oil imports.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the monthly gap between goods and services imported and goods and services exported hit $44.4 billion in January, which was about $2 billion higher than analysts had expected. December's figures were also revised downward, with Commerce lowering the trade deficit from $38.5 billion to $38.1 billion.

The $6.3 billion jump between December and January was the largest increase in the trade deficit since last March, as exports, although still hitting historically high levels, fell by 1.2%. Imports also rose 1.8% to $228.9 billion in January, an increase driven primarily by industrial supplies and materials, the imports of which increased by $4 billion.

Exports of cars, capital goods, consumer goods and food, feeds and beverages marked slight gains, but not enough to offset the slump in exports of industrial supplies and materials. Imports of crude oil increased by more than 13%, from about $22 billion in December to more than $25 billion in January, as the price for a barrel of imported oil dropped to its lowest level since July ($94.08).

On a country by country basis, the U.S. ran trade surpluses in January with Hong Kong ($2.7 billion), Australia ($1.2 billion), Brazil ($900 billion) and Singapore ($700 million), while its goods deficit with China continued to grow, hitting $27.8 billion. Continuing at this pace, the U.S. could break its record annual deficit with China, which hit $315 billion in 2012.

- Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer

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