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US trade deficit narrows as exports of services hit record high

[WASHINGTON] The US trade deficit narrowed in April as exports of services hit a record high and imports fell.

The US Commerce Department on Wednesday said that the US trade gap shrunk to US$40.9 billion in April, down from March's revised deficit of US$50.6 billion. The March deficit was previously reported at US$51.4 billion.

The 26.6 per cent drop in the April trade deficit was the largest decrease since early 2009.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast the trade deficit falling to US$44 billion.

Imports fell 3.3 per cent to US$230.8 billion as West Coast ports, a key entry point for goods to and from Asia, cleared a backlog created by a labor dispute that was settled earlier this year.

Exports increased 1.0 per cent to US$189.9 billion in April. A stronger US dollar has in recent months made US goods and services less affordable abroad.

Exports of US services swelled to US$60.9 billion, the highest ever recorded.

The politically-sensitive trade gap with China was US$26.5 billion, down 15.2 per cent from US$31.2 billion in March.

Exports to China were down 5.8 per cent to US$9.3 billion, while imports from that country slipped 13 per cent to US$35.8 billion.

The April petroleum deficit stood at US$6.8 billion, the lowest since March 2002.

Imports from South Korea were the highest ever recorded, while imports from Britain reached their highest level since July 2008. Exports to Canada, a key US trading partner, fell, while those to Mexico rose.