The U.S. goods and services deficit in March narrowed to $58.2 billion from $61.7 billion in February, as both imports and exports declined in the month, the Census Bureau reported Friday.

The February deficit was originally reported as $62.3 billion.

Economists polled by IFR Markets had predicted a $60.8 billion trade gap.

Imports fell 2.9% or $6.1 billion to $206.7 billion, while exports decreased 1.7% or about $2.6 billion to $148.5 billion.

The goods deficit for March was $68.6 billion, smaller than the $72.1 billion deficit in February. The petroleum goods trade gap was $30.4 billion, down from $32.2 billion in February.

Petroleum imports declined 5.9% to $35.2 billion, while exports dropped 7.3% to $4.8 billion. The cost of imported crude oil was $89.85 a barrel in March, up from $84.76 a barrel in February and $53 a barrel in March 2007.

Services showed a $10.4 billion surplus, identical to February’s number.

Capital goods imports dropped $800 million, with autos down $2.1 billion, while capital goods exports sank $1.2 billion and civilian aircraft dropped $1.5 billion.

Consumer goods imports sank $1.1 billion, with food imports off $100 million, while consumer goods exports fell $700 million.

Trade deficits with Canada rose 11.2% to $6.483 billion, while the deficit with Mexico rose 1.5% to $5.974 billion.

The deficit with Pacific rim nations fell 8.8%, the deficit with China slipped 3.9%, and the deficit with Japan rose 1.7%.

“The February to March change in exports of goods reflected decreases in capital goods ($1.2 billion); automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($1.0 billion); consumer goods ($700 million); other goods ($200 million); and industrial supplies and materials ($100 million). An increase occurred in foods, feeds, and beverages ($300 million),” Commerce said.

“The February to March change in imports of goods reflected decreases in automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($2.1 billion); industrial supplies and materials ($2.0 billion); consumer goods ($1.1 billion); capital goods ($800 million); and foods, feeds, and beverages ($100 million). An increase occurred in other goods ($200 million),” according to Commerce.


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