Burke – The U.S. trade deficit rose in March on higher imports, increasing the trade gap to a six- year high, according to a Commerce Department report.
The deficit in trade and goods rose to $51.4 billion in March as against $35.9 billion in February. Imports totaled $239.2 billion, showing 7.7 percent increase over February imports that were worth $17.1 billion. Exports were worth $187.8 billion, 0.9 percent up from the February exports.
The March trade data may negatively impact the growth forecast of a meagre 0.2 percent for the first quarter. The “second” estimate of GDP and a preliminary estimate of corporate profits for the first quarter of 2015 will be released on May 29, 2015.
With several regions experiencing severe weather, the dollar strengthened against major currencies in the first quarter, energy prices declined, while imports and exports were delayed because of labor disputes in key ports, according to the Commerce department.
“The March increase in the goods and services deficit reflected an increase in the goods deficit of $14.9 billion to $70.6 billion and a decrease in the services surplus of $0.6billion to $19.2 billion,” according to the report.
Year-to-date, the goods and services deficit increased $6.4 billion, or 5.2 percent, from the same period in 2014. Exports decreased $11.7 billion or 2.0 percent. Imports decreased $5.3 billion or 0.8 percent.
The import of consumer goods rose by $9 billion and those of cell phones and other household goods by $1.7 billion. Other textile apparel and household goods increased $1.3 billion.
Among goods exports, the fastest growth was in the automotive sector (6.9 percent), capital goods (3.3 percent) and foods, feeds and beverages (3.1 percent). Among services exports, the fastest growth was in maintenance and repairs (2.4 percent).
The data showed that “despite challenges facing economies around the globe, the world wants what America is selling,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said in a separate statement.
“Exports remain a critical source of economic growth and job creation across the country, and President Obama’s robust trade agenda will ensure our businesses can sell more ‘Made in America’ goods and services to the 96 percent of consumers who live outside the United States, supporting workers here at home.”
The Administration is working closely with Congress to pass trade promotion legislation, which outlines Congressional priorities on trade agreements, so that the deals currently being negotiated can be put in place, the statement said.
These two agreements — the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — would give the United States free trade arrangements with 65 percent of global GDP.