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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.

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.