WASHINGTON -- As exports fell sharply from the prior month amid a slowing global economy, the US trade deficit widened in October, government data released Tuesday showed.

The trade gap increased to $42.2 billion from a revised $40.3 billion in September, the Commerce Department said.

Exports fell by 3.6%, while imports fell by 2.1%.

The decline in exports was the sharpest since January 2009, led by a 4.8% drop in goods exports.

"Trade looks to contribute slightly to US GDP growth again in the current quarter, but pronounced weakness in exports and imports says all there is to say about the US economy's momentum," said Sal Guatieri at BMO Capital Markets.

The politically sensitive trade shortfall with China, one of the United States' biggest trading partners, expanded to a record $28.1 billion, bringing the year's 10-month total to $245.5 billion.

The three-month average trade deficit rose to $41.7 billion in October from $41.5 billion in September.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012