Trade Deficit Makes Record Jump

Trade Deficit Makes Record Jump

The U.S. trade deficit widened in June to its highest level since October 2008 as exports slipped 1.3 percent while imports hit a record high, the Commerce Department said.

The $7.9 billion increase in the trade gap was the largest since record-keeping began in 1992. The deficit of $49.9 billion exceeded the $42.1 billion median forecast by economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

American exports declined 1.3 percent, the most since April 2009, to $150.5 billion. Lower sales were reported for American farm products, computers and telecommunications equipment. Exports of electric generators, civilian aircraft and machine tools rose.

Imports rose 3 percent to $200.3 billion. Imports of consumer goods surged to a record high as shipments of cell phones, household appliances, televisions and clothing increased.

By The Numbers: U.S. Global Goods Trade.

Through the first six months of this year, the deficit in goods and services is running at an annual rate of $494.9 billion. That is up 32 percent from the $374.9 billion deficit for all of 2009 — a year when the recession reduced U.S. demand and cut the trade deficit nearly in half.

The widening trade deficit is the latest indication of slowing economic growth. PIERS Global Intelligence Solutions, a sister company of The Journal of Commerce, expects growth in U.S. containerized imports and exports to slow in the year’s second half. For the full year, PIERS forecasts a 10.3 percent increase in imports, mainly because of a surge in inventory restocking earlier this year, and a 5.2 percent increase in exports.

The wider trade deficit in June is likely to cause the Commerce Department to lower its initial estimate of 2.4 percent growth in gross domestic product during the second quarter.

It also will increase pressure on Congress to pass legislation imposing economic sanctions on China unless it allows its currency to rise quickly in value. The trade deficit with China rose 17.4 percent to $26.2 billion in June and rose 15.9 percent in the first half of the year.

-- Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com.