Goods from China and Europe and additional oil imports worsened the July trade data, with the overall July trade balance posting -$39.1 billion, only a little worse than analysts expected.

The July balance compared to a slightly revised -$34.5 billion in June, which was the smallest trade gap since the recession.

Imports posted +$3.5 billion, with about $2.3 billion of the gain in oil and related areas as prices and volume gained. There was also a $807 million advance in autos to a new high for the overall category of "vehicles, parts and engines".

Exports rose $1.1 billion, with about +$1 billion in oil. Oil and related products exports were the highest on record, illustrating that fracking has made the U.S. an important player in energy. Civilian airfraft exports were -$371 million.

The ex-petroleum trade balance was -$38.7 billion in July after -$35 billion in June, indicating the underlying need for goods resumed in the U.S.

On an unadjusted basis, the trade balance with China was a new high -$30.1 billion in July, after -$26.7 billion in June, about double the widening at this time last year; with Japan -$6.8 billion after -$5.5 billion, and with OPEC -$7.4 billion after -$5.8 billion.

The balance with the E.U. was a new record -$13.9 billion after -$7.1 billion (Croatia was added to little overall effect). There were substantial unexplained widenings with Germany, Italy, Ireland and the U.K., reflecting more imports. In summer 2012 (the year-ago period) this gap also widened out, but to a lesser extent, and mainly reflecting imports from Italy and Germany.

The real trade balance for July stands just about at the Q2 average, suggesting so far trade is a neutral for Q3 GDP growth calculations. But if the U.S. economy continues to grow there is every reason to expect domestic demand for goods to continue to outpace U.S. oil exports, and thus for the trade gap to widen again.

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