Trade Deficit in U.S. Narrows to Smallest in More Than a Year

The U.S. trade deficit shrank in September to the lowest level in more than a year on stronger exports of goods and travel services.

The gap narrowed by 9.9 percent to $36.4 billion, the smallest since February 2015, Commerce Department figures showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a deficit of $38 billion. The value of exports was the highest since July of last year, while imports declined by the most since March.

The latest results complete the trade picture for the third quarter, when net exports contributed to economic growth by the most since late 2013. The pickup in U.S. shipments overseas was led by exports of commercial aircraft and artwork that are volatile categories.

Imports, which settled back in September after a Summer Olympics-related boost a month earlier, may keep growing as the economy expands.

Bloomberg survey estimates ranged from shortfalls of $35.5 billion to $44 billion. The Commerce Department initially reported a $40.7 billion shortfall.

Exports increased 0.6 percent to $189.2 billion, while imports fell 1.3 percent to $225.6 billion. Shipments from overseas reflected less demand for capital equipment and consumer goods.

After eliminating the influence of prices, which renders the numbers used to calculate gross domestic product, the trade deficit narrowed to $55 billion from $57.4 billion.

Previously reported figures showed GDP expanded at a 2.9 percent annualized rate in the July through September period, the fastest in two years and following a weak first half of the year. The lift from trade and inventories helped cushion softer household spending. Net exports added 0.83 percentage point to growth, the third straight quarterly contribution after subtracting from GDP for most of the past two years.

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