Thoughts and Truth from the Impossible Life

US trade deficit totaled $497.8 billion

By Greg Robb, MarketWatch

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The U.S. trade deficit widened for the first time in four months in December on higher oil imports, the Commerce Department said Friday, but exports continued their upward trend and were nearing record levels.

The nation’s trade deficit expanded 5.9% in the final month of 2010, to $40.6 billion from $38.3 billion in November, the government’s data showed.

This marked the first increase and the largest trade gap since September, as the U.S. petroleum deficit hit its highest level since October 2008.

Excluding petroleum, however, the deficit actually improved.

A widening of the deficit in December had been expected, but analysts predicted a bigger increase. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected the deficit to widen to $42.0 billion.

Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors, said the data showed that higher gasoline prices are not just an inflation threat but can constrain economic growth.

“So much more money is leaving the country. It is very possible that all the added income from the Social Security tax cuts could wind up in gas tanks,” Naroff said.

For all of 2010, the trade deficit totaled $497.8 billion, up 32.8% from 2009. Exports rose 16.6% to $1.83 trillion, as imports increased 19.7% to $2.33 trillion.

Economists said the final reading on trade for 2010 might add slightly to growth for the fourth quarter.

The government’s already estimated that growth in the economy accelerated to a 3.2% annual rate in the final three months of the year, with trade contributing more than three percentage points. The trade data for December were not included in that forecast, which is subject to revision.

But strength seen in consumer spending during the fourth quarter may lead retailers to stock up on imports, meaning that the trade sector may not boost overall economic growth in coming quarters, said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto.

Investors took in the trade data in what’s been a busy Friday for financial markets.

Prices for benchmark 10-year Treasury notes (UST10Y 3.65, -0.05, -1.38%) rose on Friday, pushing bond yields lower.

As for stocks, investors bid them modestly higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA 12,278, +48.32, +0.40%) lagged gains for the other major U.S. equity benchmarks at late morning. See more on trading on Wall Street to close the week.
December details

In December, both imports and exports rose, but imports expanded at a faster pace.

Exports increased 1.8% to $163 billion in December. Monthly exports stood 1.6% below their prior record: $165.7 billion, set in July 2008.

The Obama administration has set a goal to double U.S. exports by 2014.

Imports rose 2.6% to $203.5 billion in December, the highest level since October 2008.

Imports of goods alone rose 3.1% to $170.1 billion, with the largest increase coming from industrial supplies, principally crude oil. The U.S. also imported a record amount of food and consumer goods in December.

Meanwhile, exports of goods alone rose 2.5% to $116.6 billion. Exports of industrial supplies and capital goods hit their highest levels since August 2008. Exports of autos were at their highest point since October 2008.

Exports of civilian aircraft also increased in December.

The petroleum deficit widened 26% during December to $25.3 billion, the highest level since October 2008.

Both the price and quantity of oil jumped in December.

The value of U.S. crude-oil imports rose to $22.5 billion in December from $19.8 billion in November as the price of oil rose to $79.78 a barrel from $76.81 in the previous month. The quantity of crude imports rose to 282.6 million barrels.

The nation’s trade deficit with China widened to $20.7 billion in December from $18.1 billion in the same month last year. Exports to China hit a record high in the month. The U.S. trade deficit with China hit a record $273.1 billion in 2010.

In a separate report Friday, the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters reported their index tracking U.S. consumers’ sentiment rose slightly in February, reaching 75.1 from 74.2 in January. This is the highest level since last June.

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February 11, 2011 Posted by | Politics/Government/Freedom, Societal / Cultural Issues, World Affairs | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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