Trade gap in U.S. narrows to lowest level since October 2009

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed more than forecast in June to the lowest level since October 2009 as crude oil imports declined and American companies shipped more goods abroad.

The gap shrank 22.4% to $34.2 billion from a revised $44.1 billion in May that was smaller than previously estimated, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 72 economists called for a $43.5 billion deficit. Exports increased to an all- time high while imports fell to a three-month low.

The smaller trade bill, which reflected increased U.S. shipments of capital goods and petroleum, shows second-quarter growth was stronger than initially estimated. At the same time, a projected pickup in consumer and corporate demand indicates it may be difficult for the deficit to improve further.

“This is exceptionally good news,” said Millan Mulraine, director of U.S. rates research at TD Securities USA LLC in New York, whose forecast matched the Bloomberg survey median. “This could suggest GDP could be increased by as much as 1%.” Still, the level of the trade deficit is “unlikely to be sustained given the weak global growth.”

Stock-index futures held losses after the figures, with the contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in September falling 0.2% to 1,699.7 at 9 a.m. in New York.

Bloomberg survey estimates ranged from trade deficits of $38 billion to $48.3 billion. The Commerce Department initially reported a $45 billion shortfall for May.

Record Exports

Exports increased 2.2% to $191.2 billion, boosted by sales of petroleum products and capital goods including engines and telecommunications equipment. American companies also provided foreign customers with a record value of services.

Imports declined 2.5% to $225.4 billion. Refineries in the U.S. imported less petroleum, and demand for consumer goods made overseas declined.

Increased domestic energy production is helping reduce America’s dependence of foreign crude oil. The import figures reflected 234.3 million barrels of oil, down from 240.5 million barrels in the prior month. The value of crude oil purchases decreased to $22.7 billion from $23.3 billion in the previous month.

The trade shortfall excluding petroleum shrank to a three- month low of $34.4 billion in June from $41.3 billion.

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