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US current account deficit widens in third quarter

[WASHINGTON] The US current account deficit unexpectedly rose in the third quarter as an increase in exports was offset by a rewidening of the secondary income shortfall.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday the current account gap, which measures the flow of goods, services and investments into and out of the country, rose 1.9 per cent to US$100.3 billion from a revised US$98.4 billion deficit in the second quarter.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the deficit narrowing to US$97.5 billion from a previously reported US$98.5 billion shortfall in the April-June quarter.

The current account deficit represented 2.3 per cent of gross domestic product, unchanged from the second quarter.

The deficit had declined in recent quarters as the US ramped up domestic energy production, which has reduced its petroleum import bill.

With crude oil prices at 5-1/2 year lows, the current account gap is expected to narrow in the coming quarters.

Goods and services exports increased 0.9 per cent to US$592.0 billion in the third quarter, while imports slipped 0.2 per cent to US$716.3 billion.

The surplus on primary income rose to US$59.0 billion in the third quarter from US$54.8 billion in the prior quarter.

The deficit on secondary income increased to US$34.9 billion from US$22.0 billion in the second quarter. Secondary income receipts fell to US$27.8 billion from US$40.1 billion. Secondary income receipts had been boosted by fines and penalties paid to the US government by foreign entities.