The U.S. trade deficit declined in November to its lowest level in four years as exports hit a record high and weak oil prices limited import growth, the government reported Tuesday in the latest evidence of strengthening economic fundamentals.
The Commerce Department said the trade deficit fell 12.9 percent to $34.5 billion, the smallest monthly trade gap since October 2009. Economists expected a much smaller drop in the November trade deficit.Adjusted for inflation, the trade deficit fell to $44.6 billion from $47 billion in October. The measure is a component in the calculation of gross domestic product (GDP), and the November decline could see economists raise their fourth-quarter growth estimates.In November, U.S. exports rose 0.9 percent to a record $194.9 billion, helped by a 5.6 percent gain in petroleum exports. There also were increases in exports of industrial supplies, capital goods, and automobiles.Imports fell 1.4 percent to $229.1 billion, with a decrease in demand for foreign oil offsetting a record level of imported autos. Petroleum imports were the lowest since November 2010, and imports of industrial supplies and materials also were the lowest since that date.Through 11 months of 2013, the trade deficit is 12.3 percent lower than the same period of 2012. Exports have strengthened, while imports are slightly lower.The trade deficit with China fell 6.7 percent in November to $26.9 billion, as U.S. exports hit a record high. Despite the decline, the 2013 deficit with China still is on track to set another record.The deficit with the European Union shrank 29.4 percent to $10.1 billion in November, reflecting a big decline in imports, which more than offset a small drop in U.S. exports.