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Trade gap in US widens as exports fall to four-year low

[WASHINGTON] The trade deficit widened in December as stable US domestic demand supported imports while weaker growth abroad held back overseas sales.

The gap increased 2.7 per cent to US$43.4 billion from US$42.2 billion in November, the Commerce Department reported Friday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 65 economists called for a deficit of US$43.2 billion.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from trade gaps of US$40 billion to US$46.2 billion.

For all of 2015, the trade gap widened 4.6 per cent to US$531.5 billion, the biggest since 2012. The US petroleum deficit, adjusted for changes in prices, was the lowest ever.

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China last year became the largest goods trading partner with the US, while Canada dropped to second. The value of combined exports and imports with China was US$598.1 billion in 2015.

After eliminating the effects of price fluctuations, which generates the numbers used to calculate GDP, the trade deficit widened to US$60.3 billion in December from US$59.2 billion a month earlier.

Imports increased 0.3 per cent, while exports decreased 0.3 per cent to US$181.5 billion in December, the weakest since January 2012.