Trade deficit in U.S. unexpectedly narrows on record exports

Record Exports

Purchases from customers in South and Central America climbed to a record, pushing the U.S. surplus with the region up to $2.2 billion from $400 million in August.

Exports to the European Union were little changed at $21.3 billion in September before adjusting for seasonal variations.

The Eurozone’s economy hasn’t expanded since the third quarter of 2011, and the rate of growth in both Canada and China has slowed this year relative to last.

“The pace of growth is unusually weak for this stage of a recovery cycle, and uncertainty in the U.S., China and Europe is resulting in cautious business investment,” Patrick Fitzgerald, director of investor relations at Emerson Electric, said during a Nov. 6 earnings call. “At present, there is no obvious catalyst for economic growth acceleration.”

In the three months-ended September, U.S. sales at the St. Louis-based maker of equipment for power plants and data centers grew 2 percent from a year earlier, and they were little changed in Europe and China, Farr said.

Dollar’s Drop

When those economies begin to turn around, businesses abroad may have an incentive to buy American-made products, which are becoming less expensive as the value of the dollar falls. It was down 3.1 percent on Nov. 2 against a basket of currencies from America’s biggest trading partners after reaching an almost-two-year peak in late July, according to Federal Reserve data. The data also show the dollar has dropped 28.5 percent over the past decade.

Imports increased 1.5 percent to $228.5 billion from $225.2 billion in the prior month, led by demand for cell phones and fuel products.

Apple Inc.’s iPhone 5 became available on Sept. 21 in the U.S. and more than 5 million units sold in the first three days, surpassing a record set last year by the previous model. Demand for the new handset exceeded the initial supply, the Cupertino, California-based company said.

The trade gap with China, where parts for the iPhone are manufactured, climbed to $29.1 billion in September from $28.7 billion the prior month.

Consumer Spending

Imports are likely to keep growing as consumer demand firms, widening the trade gap. Household spending advanced in September by the most since February.

After eliminating the influence of prices to produce the numbers used to calculate gross domestic product, the trade deficit shrank to $46.8 billion from $48.2 billion in August.

The Commerce Department initially estimated that trade shaved 0.2 percentage point from gross domestic product in the third quarter. The report showed the world’s largest economy grew at a 2 percent annual pace from July through September after expanding at a 1.3 percent rate in the previous three months.

Bloomberg News

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