U.S. Trade Gap Widens Less Than Forecast


The U.S. trade deficit widened less than forecast in June, reflecting a second consecutive gain in exports spurred by a pick-up in economies throughout the world.

The gap increased 4 percent to $27 billion from $26 billion in May, which was the lowest level in almost a decade, Commerce Department figures showed. Exports gained 2 percent, helped by stronger demand for goods such as semiconductors and aircraft engines, while imports rose 2.3 percent, led by a higher cost for oil.

Increases in both exports and imports signals that the worst global slump in the post-World War II era is coming to an end, helping the U.S. pull out of the recession. Federal Reserve policy makers, wrapping up a two-day meeting today, are expected to commit to keeping rates low to secure an economic recovery.

A cheaper dollar may also help boost U.S. shipments abroad; it this month hit its lowest level since October compared with currencies of major American trading partners, a Fed index shows.

Exports climbed to $125.8 billion from $123.4 billion in May. Sales of chemicals, fuel oil and foods, in addition to capital equipment, climbed.

Imports increased to $152.8 billion from $149.3 billion the prior month. The price of imported crude oil jumped to $59.17 a barrel, the highest level since November, from $51.21. Americans also bought more foreign-made automobiles and parts and computers. Demand for consumer goods, such as toys, televisions and clothing, slumped.

Demand for auto parts and industrial supplies by companies such as General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. ahead of the annual retooling of plants for the new model year may have boosted imports in June, according to Mike Englund, chief economist at Action Economics LLC in Boulder, Colorado.

The gain in auto imports was probably even bigger in July when plants reopened and the federal cash-for-clunkers” program got under way, said Englund. Car sales last month climbed to the highest level since September.

After eliminating the influence of prices, which are the numbers used to calculate gross domestic product, the trade deficit shrank to $35.9 billion, the smallest since December 1999.

The shrinking of the trade shortfall in the first half of the year helped limit the severity of the worst recession since the 1930s. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg this month forecast the economy will grow at a 2.1 percent pace in the second half of 2009.

Exports are likely to keep expanding as the global recession eases. China may grow 7.5 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund said July 8 in its latest forecast. Demand for American-made goods increased in Mexico, the European Union, Canada and China.


TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg
8/12/2009 9:39:06 AM