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US trade deficit hits 1-1/2-year low on rising exports
[WASHINGTON] The US trade deficit fell to a more than 1-1/2 year low in September amid rising exports, but a slump in imports pointed to slowing domestic demand.
The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap narrowed 9.9 per cent to US$36.4 billion, the smallest since February 2015. August's trade deficit was revised slightly down to US$40.5 billion.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade gap decreasing to US$37.8 billion in September after a previously reported US$40.7 billion shortfall. When adjusted for inflation, the deficit fell to US$55.0 billion from US$57.4 billion in August.
The data was included in last week's gross domestic product report, which showed trade contributing 0.83 percentage point to GDP growth in the third quarter.
Exports were boosted by shipments of industrial supplies and materials, and consumer goods. Exports of soybeans, which helped power the economy in the third quarter, fell in September.
Exports increased 0.6 per cent to US$189.2 billion in September, the highest level since July 2015.
Exports of industrial supplies and materials were the highest since August 2015, while those of consumer goods hit their highest level in a year.
Still, exports continue to be constrained by the residual effects of the dollar's surge against the currencies of the United States' main trading partners between June 2014 and December 2015.
Exports to the European Union increased 6.0 per cent, with goods shipped to the United Kingdom soaring 12.4 per cent. Exports to China rose 1.8 per cent.
Imports of goods and services dropped 1.3 per cent to US$225.6 billion in September. The decline in imports is consistent with a slowdown in consumer spending.
Imports from China fell 2.8 per cent. The politically sensitive US-China trade deficit dropped 4.1 per cent to US$32.5 billion in September.