The gap shrank 0.6 percent to $56.5 billion, the smallest since May 2005, from a revised $56.8 billion in August, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The report will probably prompt economists to boost estimates for growth in the third quarter.
Exports reached new highs for a seventh consecutive month as a weaker dollar and growing economies overseas bolstered demand for American products from cotton to semiconductors. Trade will continue to contribute to economic growth and help manufacturers weather a housing-related slump in demand.
Exports rose 1.1 percent to $140.1 billion as almost all major categories, including foods, raw materials, automobiles and consumer goods registered gains.
The increase was restrained by a drop in deliveries of commercial aircraft, which probably reflected fewer shipments by Boeing Corp. The world's second-biggest plane maker delivered 23 aircraft to foreign buyers in September, down from 30 in August.
Imports increased 0.6 percent to $196.6 billion, the second highest on record. Americans bought more crude oil, automobiles and computers from companies overseas.
The price of imported petroleum rose to a record average $68.51 a barrel in September. Still, a decline in the amount of crude purchased kept the oil-import bill little changed.