The U.S. trade deficit shrank sharply in November to the smallest gap in nearly a year as imports fell more than exports, government data released Wednesday showed.
The trade gap narrowed to $39 billion from a revised $42.2 billion in October, a 7.7% decline month-over-month, the Commerce Department said.
Lower prices for crude oil and petroleum imports factored into the stronger-than-expected narrowing of the gap, which analysts had expected to come in at $41.8 billion.
The department's prior October estimate was $43.4 billion.
In November, exports of goods and services fell to $196.4 billion, a decrease of $2 billion, or 1%, from October.
Imports dropped by a heftier $5.2 billion (2.2%), to $235.4 billion.
Imports of petroleum products plunged 11.8% to $23.1 billion amid a sharp fall in global crude oil prices.
The United States paid on average $82.95 a barrel for crude in November, which currently is trading below $50 a barrel.
At the same time, U.S. exports of oil products, backed by a boom in natural gas from shale production, leaped by 5.4%, driving the U.S. oil trade deficit down 25% to $11.4 billion, its lowest level in almost 11 years.
The year-end holiday shopping season that began in November brought a record $48.5 billion in goods imports.
The politically sensitive goods trade gap with China narrowed by 8% to $29.9 billion as imports from the world's second-largest economy fell.
With the European Union, the goods shortfall fell 7.1% to $11.8 billion.
In the first 11 months of the year, the overall U.S. trade deficit rose $22.3 billion, or 5.1%, from the same period in 2013.
"A strong dollar should continue to boost imports of cheaper foreign goods; though we will have to wait and see if the deflationary effects of dollar appreciation will cause domestic companies to cut prices," said Jay Morelock of FTN Financial.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015