The trade deficit surged to a record $763.6 billion in 2006 owing to new highs for oil prices and the country's commercial shortfall with China, the Commerce Department said on Feb. 13.
The December gap alone was $61.2 billion, up from $58.1 billion in November. It was the highest monthly total since September's $64.4 billion.
The annual figure was up from $716.7 billion in 2005, registering the fifth consecutive year of a record as oil prices struck new highs above $78 in mid-2006. Still, the rise in the annual deficit was only 6.5%, an improvement over the double-digit gains of the four previous years.
Exports rose 12.8% last year to $1.438 trillion while imports grew 10.5% to $2.201 trillion.
The deficit with China grew to a new high of $232.5 billion in 2006, up from $201.5 billion the year before.
The annual deficit with Japan also hit a new high at $88.4 billion, up 7.2%, which in turn is likely to intensify criticism among lawmakers about the yen's weakness against the dollar.
But against the EU, the deficit fell 4.7% to $116.6 billion over a year that saw the euro strengthen sharply against the dollar. And with Canada, the trade gap fell 7.2% to $72.8 billion.
One of the few bright spots in last year's trade picture was services, which registered their highest surplus since 2000 at $72.5 billion.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007