WASHINGTON — The U.S. December trade balance printed a surprisingly low $58.8 billion deficit that some might call a valentine. The favorable December combination of imports falling $2.2 billion and exports advancing $2.2 billion probably will not be sustained ahead.

November’s trade balance was a far larger $63.1 billion deficit and December’s was 6.9% less. The last time there was such a radical improvement in trade was a 9.3% improvement in October 2006, and it was a temporary move in a chronic deficit environment. The U.S. still depends on importing cheap goods and oil. Even so, the December non-oil deficit was $34.8 billion, its best level since November 2003.

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