U.S. Trade Gap Widened 5% in April

By Josh Mitchell and Eric MorathFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

The U.S. trade deficit widened in April as Americans stepped up purchases of foreign goods such as cellphones and equipment.

The trade gap in goods and services with other nations increased 5.2% from a month earlier to $47.62 billion, the Commerce Department said Friday. Imports grew 0.8% while exports fell 0.3%.

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Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had projected a gap of $46.2 billion.

Trade-flow estimates are volatile month to month, but exports and imports have risen broadly over the past year as the global economy strengthens. The value of foreign goods and services imported to the U.S. climbed 7.5% in the first four months of this year compared to the same period a year earlier. Exports--or the value of American goods and services sold abroad--grew 6.1% over that time.

Consequently, the trade gap has widened 13.4% this year from a year ago.

The strong dollar may be a factor in the latest increase in the trade gap. When the dollar strengthens relative to other currencies, American goods become more expensive while foreign goods become cheaper internationally.

The pickup in exports in April signals Americans and U.S. firms are stepping up spending. Consumers bought more cellphones, antiques and artwork from overseas. Meanwhile, companies boosted spending on capital goods, which hit the highest level in two years, with higher purchases of equipment and computers.

The drop in exports, meanwhile, could weigh on U.S. economic growth if sustained. A big factor was a drop in exports of consumer goods and pharmaceutical preparations. Exports of cars also fell.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 02, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)