VOL. 127 | NO. 135 | Thursday, July 12, 2012
US Trade Deficit Falls in May
MARTIN CRUTSINGER | AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in May from April, helped by cheaper oil that lowered imports and an increase in American exports to Europe and China.
But economists cautioned that the global economy has weakened since then. And they noted that the decline in the deficit wasn’t enough to alter their growth forecasts for the April-June quarter.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the trade deficit fell 3.8 percent to $48.7 billion in May, down from $50.6 billion in April.
Exports rose 0.2 percent to $183.1 billion. The increase reflected stronger sales of telecommunications equipment and heavy machinery. Exports to the 27-nation European Union rose 2.6 percent in May from April.
Imports dropped 0.7 percent to $231.8 billion. The amount the U.S. spent on imported oil fell to the lowest level in 15 months.
A narrower trade gap acts as less of a drag on growth. It means the U.S. is spending less on foreign-made products, while taking in more from sales of American-made goods.
Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, doesn’t see growth picking up from the January-March’s tepid 1.9 percent annual pace. He’s predicting annual growth of between 1.5 percent and 2 percent in the April-June quarter.
Lower oil prices were the main reason the trade deficit narrowed in May, he said. Further price declines should narrow deficits further in June and July.
U.S. export growth has slowed and will slow further “given the sharp slowdown in economic growth in Europe and Asia,” Ashworth said. He predicted that trade would be a drag on growth in the second half of this year “and probably through 2013 as well.”
The U.S. deficit with the EU widened 21 percent in May to $10.5 billion because imports from Europe increased 7.8 percent.
America’s trade deficit with China increased to $26 billion in May. U.S. exports to China rose 5.2 percent, but imports rose by a faster 5.8 percent. The deficit with China is the largest with any country and is on pace to break last year’s all-time high.
Other reports suggest exports have slowed since May.
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