December 5, 2023

Trade Gap Grew in November

WASHINGTON — The trade deficit in the United States expanded in November to its widest point in seven months, the Commerce Department said Friday, driven by a surge in imports that outpaced only modest growth in exports.

The trade gap widened 15.8 percent to $48.7 billion in November from October, the report said.

Imports grew 3.8 percent, to $231.3 billion, led by gains in shipments of cellphones, including Apple’s new iPhone.

Exports increased only 1 percent, to $182.6 billion. And exports to Europe fell 1.3 percent, further evidence of the prolonged debt crisis that has gripped the region.

A wider trade deficit acts as a drag on American growth. It typically means the United States is earning less on overseas sales while spending more on foreign products.

Faster growth in exports helped the economy grow from July through September at an annual rate of 3.1 percent. Most economists estimate growth has slowed in the October-December quarter to an annual rate of less than 2 percent, in part because of weaker exports.

Through the first 11 months of 2012, the trade deficit ran at an annual rate of $546.6 billion, roughly 2.4 percent lower than the 2011 deficit.

Imports of consumer goods grew to $45.3 billion in November, a monthly record. Much of the growth was from cellphones and other household electronics products. Oil imports dropped 2.5 percent, reflecting a fall in prices and lower volume.

Imports of foreign-made autos and auto parts rose a sizable $1.5 billion, to $25.6 billion November, probably reflecting catch-up shipments following port disruptions in October caused by Hurricane Sandy.

The American trade deficit with China, the largest with any country, totaled $29 billion in November. That was down slightly from the monthly record of $29.5 billion in October. But the trade gap with China was still on track to set a new annual record in 2012.

In its latest outlook, a forecasting panel for the National Association for Business Economics predicted that the trade deficit for 2013 will total $533 billion, a slight improvement from the $540 billion deficit they expect when the trade numbers are totaled up for all of 2012.

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