U.S. Goods-Trade Deficit Narrows as Exports Surge to Record

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The U.S. merchandise-trade deficit narrowed for the first time this year as the value of exports surged to a record and imports fell from an all-time high.

The deficit shrank to $85.2 billion from $90.6 billion in March, according to Commerce Department data released Friday. The median estimate in Bloomberg survey of economists had called for a $92 billion shortfall last month.

U.S. Goods-Trade Deficit Narrows as Exports Surge to Record

Imports fell 2.2% to $229.9 billion, while exports climbed 1.2% to $144.7 billion. The value of inward-bound consumer-goods shipments dropped from a record high, falling 4.2% to $63.6 billion.

The figures show a pause in imports following months of gains as house-bound Americans purchase goods for their homes and retailers work to replenish inventories made lean following the initial pandemic-induced global stoppage. Ports worldwide have been congested and freight rates have climbed to records amid a shortage of pallets and containers.

The value of automotive-vehicle imports declined to $29.4 billion. Vehicle exports decreased 8%, the most since May 2020, to $11.9 billion.

Automakers in April said they had deepened and extended production cuts at some North American plants as they cope with a worsening global shortage of semiconductors.

President Joe Biden is proposing $50 billion for semiconductor manufacturing and research as part of a push to address the shortage. His administration is exploring how to help chipmakers and buyers share supply-chain information to alleviate the crisis until more supply comes available, which could take years.

Overall, the value of U.S. exports plus imports surged to $374.6 billion in April, signaling a rebound in trade as the world recovers from the pandemic.

Wholesale inventories climbed 0.8% after posting the largest gain since February 2012 in the prior month.

Retail inventories retreated 1.6%, the biggest decline since June 2020.

The trade picture will come into greater focus when the final report, which includes services, is released on June 8.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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