Wider April Trade Deficit May Drive Down Second-Quarter GDP

cargo shipThe so-called U.S. trade balance, what the rest of us have referred to for years as the trade deficit, came in at a much worse reading than expected for the month of April: -$47.2 billion. Bloomberg had the consensus estimate at only -$41.0 billion.

While this difference of $6.2 billion may not seem like much on the surface, consider what it means on an annualized basis if the deficit was $6.2 billion every month were hit. That is another $74.4 billion deficit each year, on top of the deficits we already have. This is enough money on an annualized basis that it could help to ratchet down some second-quarter growth numbers in gross domestic product (GDP).

To add insult to injury, the trade balance in March was revised to a wider -$44.2 billion from a preliminary report of -$40.4 billion. The only good news is that some of the wider deficit is attributed to annual revisions.

Exports fell by 0.2% in April, but that was compared to a 2.0% gain in March. Imports rose by about 1.2% in April, down from about 3.1% in March.

With all the increases in energy exports being such a focus in America, the higher trade deficit seems to be from goods excluding petroleum ($46.8 billion in April versus $42.2 billion in March). The petroleum shortfall managed to fall to $18 billion from $19 billion, but the service surplus rose up to $18.6 billion in April from $18.3 billion.

April's largest deficit was with the European Union, hitting a new high of $13.1 billion in April, versus $11.2 billion in March. The deficit with China was $28 billion in April, versus $26.3 billion in March. The OPEC deficit was $5.5 billion in April, versus $5.9 billion in March. Our trade deficit with Japan was $5.3 billion in April, versus $5.7 billion in March. The trade surpluses were with Hong Kong, Singapore, Brazil and Australia.

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