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In January, imports of goods and services increased 2.3%, the highest level since December 2014.
In January, imports of goods and services increased 2.3%, the highest level since December 2014.

US Trade Gap Jumps to Five-Year High

US Trade Gap Jumps to Five-Year High

The US trade deficit jumped to a near five-year high in January as cell phones and rising oil prices helped to push up the import bill, suggesting trade would again weigh on economic growth in the first quarter.
The Commerce Department said the trade gap increased 9.6% to $48.5 billion, the highest level since March 2012. The deficit was in line with economists' forecasts. December's trade shortfall was unrevised at $44.3 billion, Reuters reported.
When adjusted for inflation, the trade deficit rose to $65.3 billion from $62.0 billion in December. Both the inflation-adjusted exports and imports were the highest on record in January.
The wider trade gap added to weak data such as housing starts, consumer and construction spending in suggesting the economy struggled to regain momentum early in the first quarter after growth slowed to a 1.9% annualized rate in the final three months of 2016. The economy grew at a 3.5% pace in the third quarter.
Trade cut 1.7 percentage points from gross domestic product in the fourth quarter. The Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting GDP rising at a 1.8% rate in the first quarter.
The dollar was trading marginally higher, while prices for US government bonds were little changed. US stock index futures were slightly lower.
In January, imports of goods and services increased 2.3% to $240.6 billion, the highest level since December 2014. The import bill in part reflected higher oil prices. The country imported 259 million barrels of crude oil in December, the largest amount since July 2013. The value of petroleum imports was the highest in two years.
The price of imported oil averaged $43.94 per barrel in January, the highest since August 2015. Imports of cell phones and other household goods rose $1 billion. There were also increases in imports of automobiles, which hit a record high.
Imports of industrial supplies and materials were the highest since July 2015, while capital goods imports were the highest in nearly two years.
Goods imported from China increased 5.1% to $41.4 billion in January, while those from Japan tumbled 13.9% to $10.5 billion. There was a 9.2% drop in merchandise sourced from Germany.
Exports of goods and services climbed 0.6% to $192.1 billion, the highest level since December 2014. There were increases in exports of industrial supplies and materials, which hit their highest level since December 2014.
Petroleum exports were the highest since May 2015.

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