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U.S. trade deficit widens slightly on weak exports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. trade deficit widened slightly in August as exports slipped, suggesting trade will probably not be much of a boost to growth in the third quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday the trade gap nudged up 0.4 percent to $38.8 billion. July's shortfall on the trade balance was revised to $38.6 billion from the previously reported $39.15 billion.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected the trade deficit to edge up to $39.5 billion in August.

The report was originally scheduled for release on October 8 but was delayed after the federal government was partially shut down because of a fight over the government budget and raising the debt ceiling. The 16-day shutdown ended last Wednesday.

When adjusted for inflation, the trade gap was little changed at 47.3 billion from July. This measure goes into the calculation of gross domestic product.

Trade made no contribution to GDP growth in the second quarter and will likely offer only a modest lift to third-quarter output.

The economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, stepping up from the first-quarter's 1.1 percent pace. Third-quarter growth estimates are currently around 2 percent.

The three-month moving average of the trade deficit, which irons out month-to-to month volatility, fell to $37.3 billion in the three months to August from $39.0 billion in the prior period.

Exports of goods and services dipped 0.1 percent to $189.2 billion in August. However, exports of automobiles and parts hit a record high. While imports were flat overall, the amount of goods imported from China was the highest since November 2012.

The weak import growth is consistent with sluggish domestic demand.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Krista Hughes)

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