World Bulletin / News Desk
The US trade deficit in 2016 expanded to its highest level in four years as exports fell faster than imports, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday, a fact likely to play into President Donald Trump's anti-trade narrative.
But in December the deficit narrowed slightly, with services exports rising to their highest monthly level on record.
The deficit for December fell just over three percent from November to $44.3 billion, slightly below an analyst consensus forecast, partly due to robust growth in some US export sectors.
Services exports rose to a record $63.8 billion in the final month of the year, and exports of advance technology goods hit $32.2 billion, also the highest on record.
Auto-related exports to China, Canada and Mexico fell in the month. However, the deficit in goods trade narrowed with several major trading partners in 2016, an issue that has been repeatedly flagged by Trump.
Americans imported fewer Chinese goods, lowering the trade deficit with that country by 5.4 percent to $347 billion last year despite falling auto exports.
The US deficit in goods with Germany also shrank 13 percent to $64.9 billion for the year. However the imbalance with Mexico rose by more than four percent to $63.2 billion.
Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, noted that the December deficit decrease was offset by a one percent upward revision to November's deficit.
"A $1.2 rebound in the civilian aircraft surplus accounted for most of the decline in the headline deficit, but core trade -- ex-oil and aircraft -- improved slightly too," he said in a client note.
But he noted that trade deficits were likely to rise in the first quarter due to rising oil prices.
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