U.S. Trade Deficit Widens Most Since 1999

The U.S. trade deficit widened in July and imports gained by a record in percentage terms as demand for cars, computers and oil increased.

The gap between imports and exports increased 16 percent, the most in more than a decade, to $32 billion from a revised $27.5 billion in June that was larger than previously estimated, the Commerce Department said. Imports soared 4.7 percent, outpacing a 2.2 percent gain in exports.

Automakers boosted production in response to the Obama administration’s cash-for-clunkers” program, increasing purchases of imported components and machinery. Exports are also recovering as the global economy starts to pull out of its worst slump since World War II, raising demand for U.S.-made goods.

Imports rose to $159.6 billion after also increasing the prior month. The import figures reflected a rise in crude oil prices and demand for cars, automotive parts, goods such as computers and televisions and industrial supplies.

Imports of petroleum products increased to $22.4 billion, the highest since December, as crude oil prices rose to an average $62.48 a barrel in July from $59.17 in June, according to Commerce Department data.

Imports of industrial supplies, which include crude oil, rose to $38.4 billion from $37 billion. Demand for consumer goods from abroad rose to $35.4 billion from $33.7 billion the prior month. Demand for capital goods rose to $30.2 billion from $28.9 billion, led by an increase in demand for cars and auto parts to $13.5 billion from $11.1 billion.

Imports of auto parts and industrial supplies by companies such as General Motors Co. and Hyundai Motor Corp. got a boost from the cash-for-clunkers” auto trade-in program and the annual retooling of plants.

The gain in auto imports was probably even bigger in August when cash-for-clunkers” spurred car sales to 14.1 million units on an annual basis, their highest level since May 2008.

Exports gained to $127.6 billion, led by sales of capital goods including cars, civilian aircraft and computers, as well as stronger demand for industrial supplies and consumer goods.

After eliminating the influence of prices, which are the numbers used to calculate gross domestic product, the trade deficit widened to $38.8 billion from $35.8 billion.

Exports are likely to keep expanding as the global recession eases. The economy in China, the U.S.’s second-largest trading partner, may grow 9.5 percent next year after an 8.3 percent increase this year, according to a Bloomberg survey of 22 economists conducted the week ending Aug. 28.

The trade gap with China increased to $20.4 billion from $18.4 billion in the prior month.

The U.S. trade gap with the European Union almost doubled to $8 billion from $4.5 billion, while the gap with Canada rose to $2.2 billion from $1.5 billion and the deficit with Mexico narrowed.

U.S. Trade Deficit Widens Most Since 1999

TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg
9/10/2009 9:27:24 AM