U.S. Trade Gap Widens Slightly in July

By Eric Morath and Sarah Chaney Features Dow Jones Newswires

The U.S. trade deficit expanded very slightly in July, reflecting a decline in exports.

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The foreign-trade gap in goods and services increased 0.3% from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted $43.69 billion in July, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected the trade deficit of $44.7 billion for the month.

Exports fell 0.3% in July and imports declined 0.2%.

The fall in exports was led by declining shipments of consumer goods, including phones, diamonds and drugs. That was partially offset by increased exports of petroleum. Imports of petroleum and motor vehicles fell, but delieveries of capital goods and food rose.

Data on international trade can be volatile from month to month, and the figures aren't adjusted for inflation.

Both exports and imports have been increasing most of this year, reflecting a stronger global economy driving an upswing in world trade flows. A weaker dollar has made U.S. products relatively more affordable overseas and consumer spending in the U.S. has been solid, which aids import purchases.

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In the first seven months of 2017, the value of U.S. exports rose 6% and U.S. imports increased 6.7% compared with the same period a year earlier. The overall trade deficit was expanded 9.6% compared with the first seven months of 2016.

The U.S. imports more goods than it exports, though it runs a modest trade surplus for services. Through the first half of the year, trade has been a small net boost to overall economic growth. Trade was a drag on domestic growth during the previous three years.

President Donald Trump campaigned for the White House on skepticism about current U.S. trade agreements. His administration is contemplating altering trade deals with Canada, Mexico and South Korea. He's also recently said the U.S. could stop engaging in trade with countries that do business North Korea, seen as a shot at China, among the largest U.S. trading partners.

Looking only at trade in goods, U.S. deficits with most major trading partners has widened through the first seven months of the year, compared with a year earlier. The deficit with China is 6.8% wider. The gap with Mexico is 11.9% larger.

The Commerce Department's latest report on foreign trade can be accessed at: https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/current_press_release/ft900.pdf

Write to Eric Morath eric.morath@wsj.com and Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 06, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)