US trade deficit for last year hit US$48.7 billion
By Martin Crutsinger ,APWASHINGTON -- The U.S. trade deficit expanded in November to its widest point in seven months, driven by a surge in imports that outpaced only modest growth in exports.
January 12, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
The Commerce Department said Friday that the trade gap widened 15.8 percent to US$48.7 billion in November from October.
Imports grew 3.8 percent to US$231.3 billion, led by gains in shipments of cellphones, including Apple's new iPhone.
Exports increased only 1 percent to US$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 U.S. growth. It typically means the U.S. is earning less on overseas sales while spending more on foreign products.
Faster growth in exports helped the U.S. economy grow from July through September at an annual rate of 3.1 percent. Most economists say growth has slowed in the October-December quarter to an annual rate of less than 2 percent, in part because of weaker exports.
Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, predicts trade trimmed growth by about 0.5 percentage point in the final three months of the year. He expects fourth-quarter growth to be no more than a rate of 1.5 percent.
Through the first 11 months of 2012, the trade deficit is running at an annual rate of US$546.6 billion. That's roughly 2.4 percent lower than the 2011 deficit.
Imports of consumer goods grew to US$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 US$1.5 billion to US$25.6 billion November, likely reflecting catch-up shipments following port disruptions in October caused by Superstorm Sandy.
The U.S. trade deficit with China, the largest with any country, totaled US$29 billion in November. That's down slightly from the monthly record of US$29.5 billion in October. But the trade gap with China is still on track to set a new annual record in 2012.