WASHINGTON — The U.S. international trade deficit was $38.5 billion in December, a 20.7% decrease from the revised $48.6 billion deficit in November, originally reported as $48.7 billion, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The December deficit was well below the median $46 billion deficit figure predicted by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, and was the smallest since a $37.1 billion deficit in January 2010. The 20.7% monthly decrease was the largest such drop since a 27.7% plummet from January to February 2009.

The December deficit resulted from total exports of $186.4 billion and imports of $224.9 billion.

The trade deficit was $13.2 billion lower than in the same month in 2011. Exports rose $8.6 billion, or 4.9%, from the previous year. Imports fell $4.6 billion, or 2%.

On a month-over-month basis, exports were 2.1% above the previous month's revised level of $182.5 billion, and reflected a $3.8 billion increase in exports of industrial supplies, the Commerce Department said.

Imports dropped 2.7% from the revised November level of $231.1 billion, primarily due to a $4.2 billion decline in imports of industrial supplies.

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