Starting the year in the wrong direction, the U.S. trade deficit increased in January to $44.4 billion, up from $38.1 billion in December 2012, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported today. The deficit figure was higher than analysts' consensus estimates of about $43 billion.

January exports fell to $184.5 billion in January from $186.6 billion in December. Meanwhile, imports increased in January to $228.9 billion from $224.8 billion in the previous month.

"The decline in exports reflected a 1.5% decrease in goods and a 0.3% downtick in services exports. On the import side, the rebound was entirely a petroleum story. Excluding petroleum products, goods imports declined slightly in January," said James Marple, senior economist with TD Economics.

The year-to-year comparison showed that the goods and services deficit decreased $7.8 billion from January 2012 to January 2013.

The trade deficit in goods increased $5.7 billion, with exports of industrial supplies falling from $44.1 billion in December 2012 to $41.4 billion in January 2013.

Advanced technology exports were $24.0 billion in January, while imports were $31.2 billion, resulting in a deficit of $7.1 billion.

The trade deficit in goods with China increased in January to $27.8 billion from $24.5 billion in December. The monthly deficit also rose with Japan to $6.1 billion

"The rising trade deficit with China is not a good sign for reshoring of manufacturing jobs," Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, commented.