US Trade Deficit Narrows in December

The goods and services deficit in the United States narrowed to USD 44.3 billion in December of 2016 from an upwardly revised USD 45.7 billion gap a month earlier and lower than market expectations of a USD 45 billion shortfall. Exports reached the highest in 1-1/2-years with shipments of advanced technology goods hitting a record high. Considering full 2016, the trade deficit widened 0.4 percent to a four-year high of USD 502.3 billion.

The smaller gap in December reflected a decrease in the goods deficit of USD 1.2 billion to USD 65.7 billion and an increase in the services surplus of USD 0.3 billion to USD21.4 billion.

Total exports jumped 2.7 percent to USD 190.7 billion, the highest value since April of 2015.  It follows a 0.2 percent fall in November and a 1.8 percent drop in October and is the biggest gain since September of 2012 when sales went up 2.9 percent. Exports of goods increased 3.9 percent to USD 126.9 billion, mainly boosted by capital goods (USD 3.3 billion); civilian aircraft (USD 1.0 billion); engines for civilian aircraft (USD 1.0 billion); industrial supplies and materials (USD 0.7 billion); natural gas (USD 0.2 billion) and fuel oil (USD 0.2 billion). Exports of services increased 0.4 percent to USD 63.8 billion: transport, which includes freight and port services and passenger fares, rose by USD 0.1 billion and travel (for all purposes including education) increased USD 0.1 billion.

Among main trade partners, exports surged to the European Union (10.1 percent), Japan (4.2 percent) and to OPEC (26.5 percent). In contrast, shipments fell to China (-4.1 percent), Canada (-2.8 percent), Mexico (-2.5 percent) and Brazil (-14 percent). 

Total imports went up 1.5 percent to USD 235 billion, the highest since March of 2015. It follows a 1.2 percent rise in both November and October. Imports of goods increased 1.9 percent to USD 192.6 billion including automotive vehicles, parts, and engines (USD 1.6 billion); passenger cars (USD 1.4 billion); industrial supplies and materials (USD 1.1 billion); natural gas (USD 0.4 billion); fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides( USD 0.4 billion) and capital goods (USD 1.0 billion). Imports of services were nearly unchanged at USD 42.3 billion. 

Imports from Brazil jumped 12 percent and from Japan increased 7.6 percent. In contrast, purchases fell from China (-7.6 percent), Canada (-4.4 percent), Mexico (-7.4 percent), the EU (-1.2 percent) and OPEC (-4.3 percent). 

The country recorded trade deficits with all main trade partners in December: China (USD -27.8 billion); European Union (USD -12.3 billion); Japan (USD -6.5 billion); Mexico (USD -4.4 billion) and Canada (USD -2.2 billion).

Considering full 2016, the goods and services deficit increased USD 1.9 billion or 0.4 percent from 2015 to USD 502.25 billion . Exports decreased USD 51.7 billion or 2.3 percent to USD 2209.42 billion. Imports fell USD 49.9 billion or 1.8 percent to USD 2711.67 billion. Among main trading partners, the deficit rose with: Mexico (4.2% to USD 63.2 billion, five-year high) and Japan (USD 68.94 billion from USD 68.92 billion). In contrast, it narrowed with Canada (USD 11.24 billion from USD 15.55 billion), the European Union (USD 146.34 billion from USD 155.57 billion) and China (5.5% to USD 347 billion). Still, the gap with China accounts for  more than three-fifths of the overall U.S. trade deficit. and is by far the largest among the major US trading partners. 

US Trade Deficit Narrows in December

BEA | Joana Taborda |
2/7/2017 2:52:40 PM