U.S. Merchandise-Trade Gap Grows as Consumer-Goods Imports Rise
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. merchandise-trade deficit widened in August as an increase in foreign-made consumer goods allowed imports to outpace exports.
The gap increased to $87.6 billion last month from a revised $86.8 billion in July, according to Commerce Department data released Tuesday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for an $87.3 billion shortfall. The figures aren’t adjusted for inflation.
The value of imports rose 0.8% to $236.6 billion, led by consumer goods and industrial supplies.
Exports increased 0.7% to a record $149 billion, also led by consumer merchandise and industrial supplies.
The goods-trade deficit remains close to a record $92 billion reached two months earlier and is consistent with solid consumer demand and business investment. With inventories still very lean, strained supply chains and congested ports are making it difficult for U.S. importers to satisfy the robust appetite for finished goods and supplies.
The figures also come as domestic retailers are getting ready for the holiday-shopping season. Concerns about shortages continue to mount. Chinese government restrictions on energy use are the latest threat to the nation’s producers and shippers.
While imports of consumer goods rebounded last month to $63 billion, they remained well below the record reached in March.
The Commerce Department’s report also showed U.S. wholesale inventories increased 1.2%, while retail inventories climbed just 0.1%.
Inventories at motor-vehicle dealers, slumped 1.5% and were down almost 17% from a year earlier, underscoring the challenges related to the global shortage in semiconductors.
A more complete August trade picture that includes the balance on services will come into greater focus when the final report is released on Oct. 5.
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