Photographer: Craig Warga/Bloomberg

U.S. Trade Gap Widens to Almost One-Year High of $44.5 Billion

The U.S. trade deficit widened in June to an almost one-year high as the price of oil jumped and American companies imported more consumer goods.

The gap increased by 8.7 percent to $44.5 billion, the largest since August 2015, from a $41 billion gap in May, Commerce Department figures showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a $43 billion June shortfall. The average cost of a barrel of crude oil jumped the most in five years.

A third-straight monthly pickup in imports coincides with a second quarter that saw the fastest pace of household spending since 2014. At the same time, purchases of American-made merchandise by foreign customers have been limited by slower-growing overseas economies and a stronger dollar.

“Trade will remain a weak spot for the economy the rest of the year,” Gus Faucher, deputy chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Pittsburgh, said before the report. “Consumer demand remains strong. With inventories now back to more normal levels, imports will rise. There’s not much support for exports. Overseas growth is still soft.”

Bloomberg survey estimates ranged from a trade deficit of $39 billion to $44 billion. The Commerce Department initially reported a $41.1 billion shortfall for May.

Imports increased 1.9 percent to $227.7 billion, the highest since September. Purchases of consumer goods climbed by $1.87 billion, paced by pharmaceuticals and mobile phones. Demand for crude oil jumped by $1.43 billion as the average price of a barrel surged $5.19, the most since May 2011.

Exports rose 0.3 percent to $183.2 billion, led by demand for commercial aircraft, the Commerce Department data showed.

Excluding petroleum, the trade shortfall widened to $39.2 billion from $38.1 billion.

After eliminating the influence of prices, which renders the numbers used to calculate gross domestic product, the trade deficit jumped to a more than one-year high of $64.7 billion from $60.9 billion.

The report also showed the trade gap with China, the world’s second-biggest economy, grew to $29.8 billion, the largest since November, from $29 billion.

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