According to new figures, the US trade deficit narrowed to its lowest level in four years in November 2013, as rising sales of oil pushed exports to a record high.
The trade gap dropped by 12.9% to $34.3 billion in November, the smallest monthly deficit since October 2009, the US Commerce Department said.
Imports fell 1.4% from October as a fall in demand for foreign oil offset a record level of imported cars.
Exports rose 0.9%, boosted by a 5.6% rise in petroleum exports.
The US trade deficit narrowed to its lowest level in four years in November 2013, as rising sales of oil pushed exports to a record high
US exports were also boosted by stronger sales of American-made planes and machinery.
The drop in oil imports was helped by lower global prices.
After peaking at $102 per barrel in September, the average price of a barrel of imported crude oil has been falling. It averaged $94.69 a barrel in November.
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The US trade deficit, meaning the gap between the value of imports and exports, widened in January 2013.
The trade deficit grew to $44.45 billion in January from December’s figure of $38.14 billion, the Commerce Department said.
There was better news on unemployment, with a fall in the number of initial claims for unemployment benefits.
The Labor Department said the number of initial claims for state benefits fell 7,000 to 340,000.
The figure had been expected to rise.
The initial claims news will not affect the week’s most important economic news, which is Friday’s non-farm payrolls figure for February, because the weekly claims figures are for the beginning of March.
Much of the rise in imports came from a 12% increase in imports of oil.
The trade deficit for the whole of 2012 was revised down slightly to $539.5 billion, which was 3.6% below the level from 2011.
The US trade deficit, meaning the gap between the value of imports and exports, widened in January 2013
The US trade deficit widened unexpectedly in November, after a rise in the import of consumer goods.
Figures from the Commerce Department showed that the gap widened by 16% to $48.7 billion. The markets were expecting the deficit to shrink.
The deficit was the widest recorded since April last year.
Imports increased by 3.8%, the largest rise in eight months, to $231.3 billion. The value of exports increased by 1% to $182.6 billion.
Imports of consumer goods rose by $4.6 billion. Analysts say this is a sign that the US retail sector is growing stronger, with rising consumer spending.
The US trade deficit widened unexpectedly in November, after a rise in the import of consumer goods