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[WASHINGTON] The US trade deficit shrank sharply in November to the smallest gap in nearly a year as imports fell more than exports, government data released Wednesday showed.
The trade gap narrowed to US$39.0 billion from a revised US$42.2 billion in October, a 7.7 per cent decline month-over-month, the Commerce Department said.
Lower prices for crude oil and petroleum imports factored into the stronger-than-expected narrowing of the gap, which analysts had expected to come in at US$41.8 billion.
The department's prior October estimate was US$43.4 billion.
In November, exports of goods and services fell to US$196.4 billion, a decrease of US$2.0 billion, or 1.0 per cent, from October.
Imports dropped by a heftier US$5.2 billion (2.2 per cent), to US$235.4 billion.
Imports of petroleum products plunged 11.8 per cent to US$23.1 billion amid a sharp fall in global crude oil prices.
The United States paid on average US$82.95 a barrel for crude in November, which currently is trading below US$50 a barrel.
At the same time, US exports of oil products, backed by a boom in natural gas from shale production, leaped by 5.4 per cent, driving the US oil trade deficit down 25 per cent to US$11.4 billion, its lowest level in almost 11 years.
The year-end holiday shopping season that began in November brought a record US$48.5 billion in goods imports.
The politically sensitive goods trade gap with China narrowed by 8.0 per cent to US$29.9 billion as imports from the world's second-largest economy fell.
With the European Union, the goods shortfall fell 7.1 per cent to US$11.8 billion.
In the first 11 months of the year, the overall US trade deficit rose US$22.3 billion, or 5.1 per cent, from the same period in 2013.
"A strong dollar should continue to boost imports of cheaper foreign goods; though we will have to wait and see if the deflationary effects of dollar appreciation will cause domestic companies to cut prices," said Jay Morelock of FTN Financial.