WASHINGTON — The U.S. international trade gap narrowed to $46.2 billion in April from $47.2 billion, a much smaller gap than the $48.8 billion deficit expected, reflecting a rise in exports and a decline in imports, data released by the Commerce Department Wednesday morning showed.
Annual revisions were included in the trade data, which the Commerce Department said resulted in very modest revisions of less than 1% to most annual trade gaps, except for a 3% downward revision to the trade gap in 2017. That gap now stands at $552.3 billion.
After those annual revisions, the April trade gap was smaller than the first quarter average. This is also true for the census trade gap and the chained trade gap, so if May and June do not show significant gains, net exports could be a smaller drag on second quarter growth.
The revised Census goods gap reported Wednesday was narrower than the advance estimate of $68.2 billion, coming in at $67.3 billion after $68.5 billion in the first quarter.
The overall BOP goods gap narrowed to $68.3 billion from $69.3 billion in March, while the services surplus was roughly unchanged at $22.1 billion.
The chained goods gap narrowed to $77.5 billion from $78.2 billion in March, and is well below the $82.5 billion average for the first quarter.
The petroleum gap widened to $4.9 billion in April from $4.8 billion in March, with import growth outpacing export growth. The nonpetroleum gap narrowed to $62.5 billion from $63.8 billion.
Exports rose marginally in April, with a solid $1.3 billion rise in industrial supply exports and smaller gains in foods, feeds, and beverages, and consumer goods the key positive factors. However, there was a large $1.4 billion drop in capital goods exports, led by a $2.8 billion decline in civilian aircraft exports, that provided significant offset.
Imports declined in the month due to a $2.8 billion drop in consumer goods, mostly a $2.2 billion decline in cell phone imports. There was also a $0.9 billion decline in auto imports. These were partially offset by a $1.2 billion rise in industrial imports, particularly a $1.0b billion gain in crude oil imports.
The unadjusted bilateral trade gap with China widened to $28.0 billion in April from $25.9 billion in March and $27.7 billion a year ago. The Trump administration has threatened the use of tariffs to combat what it sees as unfair trading practices with China.
The gap with Mexico narrowed due to a record number of exports to that country, while the gap with Canada widened. The gap with Japan narrowed, but there was a wider gap with the EU.
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