The U.S. trade deficit soared to a two-year high of $46.6 billion in December, mostly because of temporary oil-related shifts. Yet a stronger dollar and weak global growth likely played a role in curbing American exports. The nation's trade gap jumped 17.1% from revised $39.8 billion in November, as oil imports rose and crude exports declined, the Commerce Department said Thursday. In December, overall exports slipped 0.8% to a seasonally adjusted $194.9 billion. Imports increased 2.2% to $241.4 billion. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast a total deficit of $38.7 billion. Despite the oil reversal in December, the U.S. boosted petroleum exports to a record high in 2014 and imported the least amount of crude in five years because of surging domestic energy production. Because of the much larger trade deficit, the initially reported 2.6% gain in fourth-quarter gross domestic product is unlikely to be revised higher unless other areas of the economy turn out to show stronger growth than initially estimated.
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