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Trade Gap in U.S. Shrinks to Five-Year Low as Imports Slump

An Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) container ship waits to unload cargo in this aerial photograph taken above the Port of Los Angeles.

An Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) container ship waits to unload cargo in this aerial photograph taken above the Port of Los Angeles.

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg
Updated on

The trade deficit in the U.S. shrank in February to the lowest level in more than five years as a labor dispute at West Coast ports contributed to the weakest reading on purchases from abroad since 2011.

The gap, which measures the difference in the value between imports and exports, narrowed by $7.2 billion to $35.4 billion, lower than the lowest forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg and the smallest since October 2009, the Commerce Department reported Thursday in Washington. Imports contracted 4.4 percent, the biggest slump since February 2009, when the economy was still in the recession.