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Trade Gap in U.S. Shrinks More Than Forecast on Record Exports

A Container Ship Departs the Port of Los Angeles
The Guenther Schulte container ship departs the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California, on June 30, 2014. The trade deficit in the U.S. narrowed more than forecast in May on record exports. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

July 3 (Bloomberg) -- The trade deficit in the U.S. narrowed more than forecast in May on record exports, signaling a pickup in global growth that will boost American manufacturers.

The gap shrank by 5.6 percent, the biggest drop since November, to $44.4 billion from the prior month’s $47 billion, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 69 economists called for a contraction to $45 billion. Sales to foreign customers climbed 1 percent on growing demand for autos and parts, petroleum products and aircraft engines.

Economic expansions abroad that are gaining traction will probably continue to invigorate demand for American goods. A narrowing deficit would mean trade becomes less of a drag on gross domestic product in the second quarter after the world’s largest economy contracted in the first three months of 2014.

Other reports today showed payrolls rose by 288,000 in June and the jobless rate fell to 6.1 percent, according to figures from the Labor Department.

Trade estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from gaps of $41 billion to $48 billion. The April reading was revised from a previously reported $47.2 billion deficit.

Exports climbed to $195.5 billion from $193.5 billion in April.

Imports decreased 0.3 percent to $239.8 billion as demand for petroleum dropped to the lowest level since November 2010. Excluding petroleum, imports rose to a record as Americans bought more autos and parts, industrial machines and drilling equipment.

GDP Impact

After eliminating the influence of prices, which generates the numbers used to calculate gross domestic product, the trade deficit narrowed to $52 billion from $53.9 billion in April.

The average so far in the second quarter, at $52.9 billion, exceeds the $49.3 billion in the first three months of the year, signaling trade is poised to again subtract from growth, although less than in the first three months of 2014.

GDP in the first quarter shrank at a revised 2.9 percent annualized rate, the worst reading since 2009, as a widening trade gap shaved 1.53 percentage points from growth, Commerce Department figures showed last month.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeanna Smialek in Washington at jsmialek1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Carlos Torres at ctorres2@bloomberg.net

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