US trade deficit shrinks

Washington, May 3 (IANS/EFE) The US trade deficit declined by 11 percent in March to $38.8 billion due to a drop in crude oil imports, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Imports fell overall by 2.8 percent to $223.1 billion, the largest decrease since 2009.

Exports, meanwhile, were down 0.9 percent to $184.3 billion, due to a drop in sales of machine parts, computers and farm products.

The US trade deficit ran at an annual rate of $507.7 billion in the first quarter, compared to last year’s deficit of $539.5 billion.

The March deficit figure marked the second sharp drop in the US trade deficit in the past four months.

Many economists were surprised by the 11 percent decline, having forecast a slight decrease to roughly $42 billion.

The bigger-than-expected decline will likely have an impact on final first-quarter GDP figures, which are expected to be revised upward after an initial estimate of a 2.5 percent rise.

The drop in crude oil imports – which averaged 7 million barrels per day, the lowest level since 1996 – was a key factor in the narrower trade gap.

That figure reflects growing domestic oil and natural gas output.

The smaller trade deficit is a positive sign for the US economy, which has recovered slowly from the 2008-09 global recession.

–IANS/EFE

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