The U.S. trade gap unexpectedly narrowed in August to its smallest level in seven months on an increase in exports, supporting views of sturdy economic growth in the third quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap narrowed 0.5 percent to $40.1 billion. July's trade deficit was revised to $40.3 billion.
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Economists polled by Reuters had expected the deficit to widen to $40.9 billion in August from a previously reported $40.6 billion shortfall a month earlier.
Exports increased 0.2 percent to $198.5 billion in August, supported by rising sales aboard of U.S. capital goods, consumer goods and industrial supplies.
Imports edged up 0.1 percent to $238.6 billion. Imports of petroleum and autos declined. Petroleum imports were at their lowest level since Nov. 2010, aided by a domestic energy boom that has seen the United States reduce its dependence on foreign oil. Imports of capital goods were the highest on record.
The politically sensitive trade gap with China narrowed in August, while exports to Japan rose to their highest level since March 1996.