U.S. Trade Gap Grew 3.2% in November

The U.S. trade gap rose to a nearly six-year high in November, driven by a surge in imports as upbeat American households stepped up purchases of cellphones, household items and other products.

The trade deficit increased 3.2% from a month earlier to $50.5 billion, the highest since January 2012, the Commerce Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a $49.8 billion gap.

While both imports and exports rose, the former increased by a greater margin, causing the deficit to expand. Imports climbed 2.5% while exports increased 2.3%.

Busier international trade flows reflect strengthening economies in the U.S. and abroad, with major global regions growing in sync for the first time in years. Imports and exports, before inflation, reached record highs in November. And after adjusting for inflation, imported goods and exported goods set records.

U.S. exports grew 5.6% from January through November compared to the same period a year earlier, while imports climbed 6.7% over that period. The trade gap widened 11.6% over that period.

The widening trade gap carries mixed implications for the U.S. economy. The surge in imports suggests Americans and businesses are wealthy and confident enough to step up spending, a sign of underlying economic health.

However, higher imports also means Americans are spending a significant amount of money abroad rather than at home, benefiting foreign companies and, in turn, restraining gains in U.S. output. The wider defect has helped major U.S. trade rivals such as China, Japan and Mexico.

The Commerce Department report on trade can be found at http://www.census.gov/ft900.

Write to Josh Mitchell at joshua.mitchell@wsj.com and Eric Morath at eric.morath@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 05, 2018 08:49 ET (13:49 GMT)