WASHINGTON – The U.S. international trade deficit was $51.8 billion for March, a 14.1% increase from the revised $45.4 billion deficit for February, originally reported as $46.0 billion, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The March deficit was greater than the median $50.0 billion deficit for the month estimated by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, and resulted from total exports of a record high $186.8 billion and imports of $238.6 billion.

The March deficit was $5.8 billion more than the March 2011 deficit, and the three-month moving average deficit was $49.9 billion.

March exports were $5.3 billion more than the previous month's level of $181.5 billion. That increase reflected a $4.7 billion climb in the export of goods, especially industrial supplies and materials, the Department reported. Exports of services climbed $500 million.

Imports were $11.7 billion more than the February level of $226.9 billion, also a record. That increase was led by rises in imports of consumer goods and capital goods, Commerce said.

The 14.1% increase in the deficit was the largest since a 16.1% change from April to May 2011, and the 2.9% gain in imports was the largest since a 3.8% increase between June and July of that year. The 5.2% imports increase was the biggest since imports rose 5.3% from December 2010 to January 2011.

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