Photographer: Craig Warga/Bloomberg

U.S. Goods-Trade Gap Widens to Four-Month High

Updated on

The U.S. merchandise-trade deficit widened to a four-month high as imports rose for the first time since April, according to preliminary figures released Thursday by the Commerce Department. The report also showed inventories increased at wholesalers and fell at retailers.

Highlights of Advance Trade and Inventories (September)

  • Goods-trade gap increased to $64.1b (est. $64b) from $63.3b in Aug.
  • Wholesale inventories increased 0.3% m/m (est. 0.4% gain), after revised 0.8% rise in the prior month
  • Retail stockpiles fell 1% m/m as auto inventories dropped by most since 2009

Key Takeaways

The rebound in imports spanned all major categories except motor vehicles, with shipments of capital goods and industrial supplies both rising more than 2 percent. Exports also gained, though the increase was concentrated in industrial supplies, with most other categories declining. Even so, U.S. companies have benefited from strong overseas markets and a weak dollar, both of which have boosted shipments abroad. The trade and inventory figures will be used by analysts to refine their estimates for third-quarter economic growth, with data set to be released Friday.

Other Details

  • Exports of goods rose 0.7 percent in September from the previous month; imports advanced 0.9 percent
  • Outbound shipments of industrial supplies rose 4.8 percent, while capital goods fell 0.6 percent and consumer goods dropped 0.4 percent
  • Auto exports fell 6 percent, imports dropped 2 percent
  • Inventories at motor vehicles and parts dealers fell 2.6 percent, biggest drop since August 2009; excluding autos, retail stockpiles declined 0.1 percent
  • Exports and imports of goods accounted for about three-fourths of America’s total trade in 2016; the U.S. typically runs a deficit in merchandise trade and a surplus in services

— With assistance by Kristy Scheuble

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