U.S. Trade Deficit Hits 14-Month High on Oil Imports

by Reed Saxon

The U.S. trade deficit in November surged to the highest level in 14 months, reflecting record imports of foreign oil. The deficit with China declined slightly while the weak dollar boosted exports to another record high.

The Commerce Department reported that the trade deficit, the gap between imports and exports, jumped by 9.3 percent, to $63.1 billion. The imbalance was much larger than the $60 billion that had been expected.

The increase was driven by a 16.3 percent surge in America’s foreign oil bill, which climbed to an all-time high of $34.4 billion as the per barrel price of imported crude reached new records. With oil prices last week touching $100 per barrel, analysts are forecasting higher oil bills in future months.

The big surge in oil pushed total imports of goods and services up by 3 percent to a record $205.4 billion. Exports also set another record, rising by a smaller 0.4 percent to $142.3 billion. Export demand has been growing significantly over the past two years as U.S. manufacturers and farmers have gotten a boost from a weaker dollar against many other currencies. That makes U.S. goods cheaper on overseas markets.

Exports still moving up.

Through the first 11 months of 2007, the deficit is running at an annual rate of $709.1 billion, down 6.5 percent from last year’s all-time high of $758.5 billion. Analysts believe that the export boom will finally result in a drop in the trade deficit in 2007 after it set consecutive records for five years.

Agreed. Ultimately, the only way the foreign sector can slow their accumulation of $US, as the falling $ indicates they are in the process of doing, is to spend it here.

The growth in exports has been a major factor cushioning the blow to the economy from the slump in housing and a severe credit crunch. However, with oil pushing imports up sharply, analysts believe the help from trade in the final three months of last year will be shown to have been significantly smaller.

Could be. December numbers will not be out for another month.

By country, the deficit with Canada, America’s largest trading partner, dropped by 12.1 percent to $4.7 billion in November while the imbalance with Mexico rose by 1.4 percent to $7.6 billion. The imbalance with the European Union fell by 12.6 percent to $10.4 billion.

Might explain some weakness in Canada and Eurozone.

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