The U.S. trade deficit rose to a three-year high of $52.6 billion in January as a 2.1 percent jump in imports outpaced a 1.4 percent rise in exports.
It is the largest deficit amount since October 2008, as imports totaled $233.4 billion against $180.8 billion in exports. About a third of the increase in imports was because of a 3.3 percent rise in petroleum imports to $39.1 billion.
A 7.5 percent month-to-month drop in the value of shipments lead to a decline in export volume to Europe, which accounts for about 20 percent of U.S. exports, the Commerce Department reported.
Shipments of automotive goods registered increases in both directions, reflecting the industry’s continuing recovery. Automotive imports rose 10.4 percent from December to a record $25.3 billion while exports increased 9 percent to $12.7 billion, also setting a record.
Imports of capital goods such as computers and industrial machinery hit a record $44.7 billion. Imports of food products were a record high of $9.6 billion.
The politically sensitive deficit with China, a record $295.5 billion in 2011, rose 12.5 percent to $26 billion in January. The deficit with the European Union dropped 11.7 percent to $8.5 million as an 8.7 percent drop in European imports offset the 7.5 decline in U.S. exports to EU nations.