The nation's trade deficit soared 43% to $51.5 billion in March, largely reflecting the settlement of a major West Coast port dispute that allowed piles of imported goods sitting on docks to be processed and shipped to U.S. buyers. Exports edged up 0.9% to $187.8 billion, but imports leaped a record 7.7% to $239.2 billion, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. The size of the trade gap was much larger than expected, suggesting first-quarter U.S. GDP will go from a meager 0.2% gain to a negative reading when the preliminary numbers are revised later this month. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast the deficit to rise to $43.5 billion in March from a revised $35.9 billion in February. After falling to the six-year low in February, the deficit climbed to a seven-year high in March as ports began to operate again near full capacity. Meanwhile, the three-month average in the trade gap that smooths out big short-term swings only showed a modest change. The trade deficit in the first quarter averaged $43.3 billion, up 5.2% compared to $41.17 billion in same three months in 2014. That's the highest three-month average since last June.
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