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U.S. Trims Annual Trade Deficit for First Time in Six Years

Fell to $711.6 billion

As strong exports offset record-high oil prices and a big gap with China, the U.S. annual trade deficit fell for the first time in six years in 2007, to $711.6 billion from $758.5 billion, the Commerce Department reported on Feb. 14.

The decline in the trade deficit came amid slowing economic growth that reduced demand for imports. The 2007 decline of 6.2% was the biggest decrease since 1991, when the U.S. economy was also slowing down.

In December, the trade deficit fell to $58.8 billion from a revised $63.1 billion in November.

Exports of goods and services increased by $2.2 billion in December to $144.3 billion.

Imports fell 1.1% in December to $203.1 billion. Most of the $2.4 billion fallback came from a $2.1 billion drop in auto imports. However, demand for consumer goods and business capital equipment was also down.

The average price of an imported barrel of oil was up 3.9%, helping produce record total petroleum imports of $36 billion. The rising oil bill, however, was not enough to overcome the fall of imports in non-petroleum goods.

Exports rose 1.5% and most of the $1.9 billion increase came from civilian aircraft deliveries, which rose $1.4 billion. Boeing's sales are frequently the single biggest monthly figure in U.S. exports. Auto exports fell but overseas demand rose for U.S. consumer and capital goods other than airplanes.

The U.S. had record exports to China of $6.9 billion and the trade deficit with that country fell 21.5% to $18.8 billion. For the full year, the goods deficit with China increased to $256.3 billion from $232.6 billion in 2006. Exports increased $10.1 billion to $65.2 billion, while imports increased $33.7 billion to $321.5 billion.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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