Sun | Oct 21, 2018

US trade deficit rises in August

Published:Thursday | October 6, 2016 | 12:00 AM
In this February 29, 2016 file photo, John Jenkins watches from Jack Perry Memorial Park as the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin container ship is towed to Seattle's Terminal 18. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported that the US trade gap widened in August. (Genna Martin/ via AP)

The United States trade deficit rose in August as a flood of imports offset the best showing for exports in 13 months. The politically sensitive deficit with China rose to the highest level in 11 months.

The trade deficit increased three per cent to US$40.7 billion, up from a gap of US$39.5 billion in July, the US Commerce Department reported on Wednesday.

Imports jumped 1.2 per cent to US$228.6 billion, reflecting big increases in shipments of foreign oil, autos and commercial aircraft. Exports were up 0.8 per cent to US$187.9 billion, the fourth straight monthly increase and the highest level in 13 months.

Analysts are hopeful that export sales will pick up after a rough two years when American producers had to battle a rising dollar that made their products costlier overseas.

"Exports are beginning to show signs of life as the drag from the dollar's surge in 2014 and 2015 begins to fade," said Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics. He predicted that the rise in exports would contribute to overall growth in the July-September quarter.

The deficit with China increased 3.5 per cent to US$33.9 billion, the highest level since September 2015. So far this year, America's deficit with China, the largest with any single country, is running 5.7 per cent below last year's level.

The trade deficit is the difference between what America exports for sale abroad and imports for consumption in the United States. So far this year, the deficit is running 1.3 per cent lower than the same period last year. The deficit in goods and services totalled US$500.4 billion, trimming 0.6 percentage point from overall growth of 2.6 per cent in 2015.

Growth this year is expected to be even slower given a weak start which has seen the economy barely expanding at an anaemic rate of 1 per cent, as measured by the gross domestic product, in the first half of the year.

However, analysts believe growth will rebound in the second half as continued solid gains in employment help to boost consumer spending. They are looking for a declining trade deficit to help boost GDP growth to around 3 per cent in the July-September period.

For August, oil imports rose 2.2 per cent to US$12.9 billion with the volume of crude oil imports climbing to the highest level since January 2014. Imports of capital goods rose 2.4 per cent, reflecting increased foreign purchases of civilian aircraft, telecommunications equipment and computers.

The rise in exports reflected an increase in US shipments of autos and medical equipment which offset a drop in sales of American-made aircraft.

- AP