The U.S. trade deficit widened sharply in November, posting the highest level in seven months amid a jump in consumer-goods imports, according to Department of Commerce data released Friday.

The U.S. trade deficit expanded to $48.7 billion, up from a revised $42.1 billion in October. November U.S. exports were $1.7 billion more than October exports, while November imports were $8.4 billion above the October level.

Analysts said the surprisingly wide trade gap suggested lower fourth-quarter economic growth than previously thought. On the positive side, the higher imports suggest domestic demand has "firmed," said Barclays in a note.

The trade deficit was well above analyst forecasts of $41.8 billion. Analysts had seen the gap narrowing due to lower month-on-month oil prices.

The jump in imports was especially pronounced in consumer goods (up 11.1%) and automobiles (up 6.3%). U.S. spending on oil imports fell due to lower oil prices.

The closely watched U.S. trade gap with China fell to $29 billion in November from the October level of $29.5 billion.

The higher trade deficit will translate into a negative contribution to fourth-quarter GDP "as domestic demand should still expand modestly while the world economic activity remain weak," said Julien Thomas, a U.S. economist at Natixis.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013