[WASHINGTON] The US trade deficit widened in February to a record high as solid household and business demand kept imports running ahead of shipments to overseas customers.
The gap in trade of both goods and services increased to US$71.1 billion in February from a revised US$67.8 billion a month earlier, according to Commerce Department data released Wednesday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a US$70.5 billion shortfall.
A decline in exports exceeded a drop in the value of imports during the month as severe winter weather disrupted two-way trade.
The US deficit has been widening fairly consistently on a monthly basis since reaching a more than three-year low in February 2020. Merchandise imports have been pouring into the nation's ports, leading to shipping container shortages that have driven up freight rates and left domestic producers scrambling at a time when inventories are lean.
Global supply chains were put to the test in late March after a massive container ship blocked the Suez Canal for days, forcing carriers and other vessels to weigh costly and time-consuming voyages around Africa.
Total imports decreased 0.7 per cent to US$258.3 billion, while exports fell 2.6 per cent to US$187.3 billion.
Meantime, a global shortage of semiconductors has been causing automakers like Ford Motor and Nissan Motor to scale back production, further impacting global trade.
The value of imported semiconductors was little changed at US$5 billion in February, while exports of the chips dropped more than US$400 million to US$4.8 billion.
Imports of motor vehicles and consumer goods declined in February, while the value of industrial supplies, that include oil, increased.
The merchandise-trade deficit rose about 3 per cent to US$88 billion, while the nation's surplus in services trade fell to US$16.9 billion, the smallest since 2012.