U.S. Trade Deficit Sets Monthly Record

By John S. McClenahen The U.S. international trade deficit in goods and services deepened by 9.1% to $45.958 billion in March, a monthly record, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on May 12. Exports of $94.702 billion were more than offset by dramatically higher imports of $140.66 billion. February's deficit was $42.124 billion. The continuing recovery from recession and rising oil prices appear to be the major factors behind the deeper deficit. "The import surge was broad-based and reflected more than just rising import prices," notes UBS Investment Research, New York. "Imports of petroleum did rise sharply in March, reflecting a 5.2% rise in oil prices. But imports of capital goods and other consumer goods rose, too." Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department released its import and export price indexes for April, showing prices of imports increased 0.2% during the month, just half of the 0.4% economists anticipated. "A 0.8% drop in petroleum prices, the first in six months, capped the rise in import prices in April," says UBS. Export prices rose 0.6%, three-tenths of a percentage point lower than their March increase of 0.9%. But some hefty year-on-year gains suggest to UBS that "a stronger global economy may be imbuing producers with some pricing power."

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