The Commerce Department reported the U.S. trade gap narrowed for the sixth consecutive month to a seasonally adjusted $36.0 billion, down 9.7% from a revised $39.9 billion in December. That was the narrowest monthly trade gap since October 2002.
Imports, down 6.7% at $160.9 billion, fell more sharply than exports, which dropped 5.7% to $124.9 billion.
On a 12-month basis, the trade deficit was down 39% from January 2008, when it totaled $59.2 billion.
Total imported goods fell to $128.8 billion, the lowest level since September 2004. Total exports dropped to $82.7 billion, the weakest number since February 2006.
The deficit in petroleum products narrowed 21.7% from December to $14.7 billion, its lowest level since September 2004. When oil prices were at all-time peaks last July, the gap was 66% higher.
Imports declined in most goods categories, including industrial supplies and machinery, down 10.8% at $38.2 billion, and autos and auto parts, off 22.2% at $11.5 billion, the smallest number since July 1998.
The goods deficit fell 8.4% from December to $47.0 billion, while the surplus in services dropped 3.8% to $10.9 billion.
The trade gap with Canada, the country's largest trading partner, continued to shrink, to $2.5 billion, its weakest level since May 1999.
The trade gap with China, the number-two U.S. trading partner, rose to $20.6 billion in January, but included a 1.4% decline in Chinese goods imports.
The deficit with Japan fell to its lowest level since January 1998, at $4.3 billion, and Japanese imports were the weakest since May 1993.
With the 16-nation eurozone, the gap contracted a staggering 40.6% in January from the previous month, to $3.4 billion.. Trade volume dropped 18.4%.
The U.S. trade deficit for the full-year 2008 was revised upward to $681.1 billion.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009