The Week Ahead

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Tuesday, Apr. 20, 8:30 a.m. EDT -- The U.S. trade deficit for goods and services probably narrowed slightly in February, to $16.5 billion from a large $17 billion in January. That's according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Standard & Poor's MMS, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Exports in February probably rebounded after falling for three consecutive months. However, imports likely grew at a faster pace lifted by higher crude-oil prices. Imports rose 2% in January. An unexpected narrowing in the foreign trade deficit contributed to economic growth in the fourth quarter, but the gap is on track to subtract, perhaps substantially, from growth in the first quarter. The weakness in merchandise exports has contributed to layoffs in the factory sector. But cheaper imports, a result of the stronger dollar, has kept inflation low in the U.S.

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