Trade Deficit in U.S. Unexpectedly Narrows

The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in August as exports climbed to the highest level of the year and oil imports plunged.

The gap fell 3.6 percent to $30.7 billion from a revised $31.9 billion in July, the Commerce Department said. A rebound in auto making contributed to a jump in exports to Canada, while a drop in the number of barrels of petroleum bought abroad swamped an increase in fuel prices.

More than $2 trillion in government stimulus programs are reviving demand from Asia to Europe, ensuring American factories benefit from growing sales overseas as the dollar falls. Gains in production and the need to replenish depleted inventories mean imports will probably also grow in coming months.

Exports increased 0.2 percent to $128.2 billion, led by a $496 million gain in sales of cars and parts. Exports to Canada reached the highest level since November, in part reflecting the cross-border trade in autos.

A falling dollar, by making U.S.-made cheaper to foreign buyers, is likely to stimulate foreign demand in coming months. The dollar yesterday fell toward its lowest level since August 2008 against the currencies of six major U.S. trading partners.

Imports fell 0.6 percent to $158.9 billion in August after jumping the prior month by the most in 16 years. Purchases of crude oil from overseas dropped as the U.S. imported 8.66 million barrels a day on average, down from 9.56 million in July. The average price per barrel rose to $64.75 from $62.48.

After eliminating the influence of prices, which are the numbers used to calculate gross domestic product, the trade deficit narrowed to $37.7 billion from $38.8 billion.

The trade gap with China was little changed in August as both exports and imports climbed. Group of Seven officials, in a statement this month, welcomed China’s continued commitment” to a more flexible currency, which they said would promote balanced international expansion.

Trade Deficit in U.S. Unexpectedly Narrows, Bloomberg
10/9/2009 10:06:30 AM