April U.S. Trade Gap Smaller Than Forecast as March Revised Down

The trade deficit in the U.S. was smaller than forecast in April after revisions for the prior month put the gap at the lowest level in more than two years.

The difference between imports and exports increased 5.3 percent to $37.4 billion, lower than any forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists, from a revised $35.5 billion in March that was the smallest since December 2013, the Commerce Department reported Friday in Washington.

The strongest sales to overseas customers so far this year included rising demand for American-made fuel products that cut the country’s petroleum deficit to $3.1 billion, the smallest in 17 years. Purchases of goods made abroad also rebounded after slumping in March, indicating U.S. demand is also holding up.

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 61 economists called for a $41 billion deficit. Survey estimates ranged from trade gaps of $39 billion to $44.5 billion.

With Friday’s report, the Commerce Department also revised trade figures for both goods and services back to 2013. Deficits for 2013 through 2015 were revised down, reflecting bigger surpluses in services.

After eliminating the effects of price fluctuations, which generates the numbers used to calculate GDP, the trade deficit widened to $57.6 billion in April from $56.1 billion a month earlier.

Imports increased 2.1 percent, the biggest gain in a year, to $220.2 billion from $215.7 billion in March.

Exports rose 1.5 percent to $182.8 billion in April from $180.2 billion the prior month.

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