US Trade Gap at 9-Year High

The US recorded a USD 53.1 billion trade deficit in December of 2017, following a downwardly revised 50.4 billion gap in November and compared to market expectations of a USD 52 billion shortfall. It is the highest trade gap since October of 2008 as imports reached a new high mainly due to purchases of consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, cell phones and passenger cars. Exports also touched a fresh record high although rose at a slower pace than imports.

The December increase in the goods and services deficit reflected an increase in the goods deficit of $2.6 billion to $73.3 billion and a decrease in the services surplus of $0.1 billion to $20.2 billion.

Total exports of goods and services went up 1.8 percent to a new high of $203.35 billion. Exports of goods increased $3.4 billion to $137.5 billion, mainly due to industrial supplies and materials ($1.5 billion); organic chemicals  ($0.2 billion); fuel oil ($0.2 billion); capital goods ($1.2 billion); civilian aircraft ($0.8 billion); other industrial machines ($0.7 billion). Exports of services went up $0.1 billion to $65.9 billion: travel (for all purposes including education) increased $0.1 billion and maintenance and repair services rose $0.1 billion while transport decreased $0.1 billion.

Total imports jumped 2.5 percent to $256.5 billion. Imports of goods increased $6.0 billion to $210.8 billion, namely consumer goods ($3.2 billion); pharmaceutical preparations ($1.8 billion); cell phones and other household goods ($1.7 billion); automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($1.1 billion); passenger cars increased ($1.1 billion); capital goods ($0.8 billion). Imports of services rose $0.3 billion to $45.7 billion: travel (for all purposes including education) increased $0.2 billion and charges for the use of intellectual property went up $0.1 billion.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, exports went up to OPEC (19.1 percent), Japan (11.4 percent), Brazil (8.8 percent), China (7.5 percent) and the EU (5.2 percent). On the other hand, sales went down to Mexico (-9 percent) and Canada (-7.4 percent). Imports jumped 6.1 percent from the EU and those from Japan 3.7 percent. In contrast, purchases fell from other major destinations, namely Brazil (-17.3 percent); Mexico (-9.3 percent); OPEC (-8.8 percent); China (-7.6 percent) and Canada (-2.6 perrcent). The trade deficit worsened with the EU ($-15.81 billion from $-14.73 billion) and Canada ($-2.2 billion from $-1.03 bilion) but narrowed with China ($-30.81 billion from $-35.43 billion); Mexico ($-5.37 billion from $-5.98 billion) and Japan ($ -5.53 billion from $-5.76 billion). Also, the trade balance with the OPEC switched into a $0.21 billion surplus from a $1.26 billion shortfall.

As a percentage of the GDP, the goods and services deficit was 2.9 percent in 2017, up from 2.7 percent in 2016.

Considering full 2017, the US trade deficit widened 12.1 percent to $566.0 billion, the highest since 2008. Exports rose 5.5 percent to $2.33 trillion, while imports climbed 6.7 percent to a record $2.9 trillion. Both showed the biggest gains since 2011. The trade gap with China increased 8.1 percent to a record of $375.2 billion and the gap with Mexico rose to $71.1 billion, the second highest on record. The petroleum gap of $95.9 billion was the smallest since 2003, as petroleum exports rose to a record high.

US Trade Gap at 9-Year High

BEA | Joana Taborda |
2/6/2018 4:33:58 PM