Published: Thu, May 04, 2017
Markets | By Terence Owen

Trade deficit narrows in March

Trade deficit narrows in March

In this October 24, 2016, photo, a container is unloaded from a ship at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore.

The US trade deficit drifted lower in March despite record imports from Mexico and a drop in total exports, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Energy exports were up seven per cent, led by increased natural gas sales to the United States attributable to "unusually low temperatures in the northeastern USA in March", and more coal shipments to Japan, China and South Korea, the agency said.

The trade gap slipped 0.1 per cent in March to US$43.7 billion, seasonally-adjusted. Imports were also down, falling 0.7 percent to $234.7 billion.

Driving the gain was a 7.0 per cent increase in energy exports to $8.7 billion.

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President Donald Trump is poised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which links Canada, Mexico and the United States, and has threatened to pull out unless the U.S. gets a favorable deal.

Imports from Mexico hit US$28.1 billion, their highest on record, pushing the deficit with the southern neighbor to its highest level in almost 10 years.

Other reports suggest US firms are benefiting from stronger economic growth around the globe, including in Europe and Asia. Andrew Hunter, U.S. economist at Capital Economics, says the improving trade picture provided a modest boost to first-quarter U.S. growth and "may end up being a small positive" in the second quarter too.

The goods-trade deficit with Mexico widened to $7 billion, the highest since November 2007, as imports rose to a record $28.1 billion. Energy products rose 7.0 per cent, pushed up by higher natural gas flows to the United States and a spike in exports of coal to Asia that coincided with a slowdown in Australian production caused by a cyclone.

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