WASHINGTON — The U.S. international trade gap narrowed to $36.0 billion in January, its lowest level since October 2002, on declines in both imports and exports, the Commerce Department said Friday.

The trade gap, which was slightly narrower than the $38.2 billion expected, was due in part to large declines in crude oil imports and motor vehicles imports.

The unadjusted crude oil barrel price fell to $39.81, the lowest level since February 2005, while the volume of crude oil imports also fell.

The petroleum goods gap narrowed to $14.7 billion in January from $18.8 billion in December, the smallest gap since September 2004, while the nonpetroleum gap widened very slightly. While the total goods gap narrowed sharply as a result, this was partially offset by a decline in the services surplus.

In addition to vehicles and crude oil, imports of capital and consumer goods also fell, an indication of the weakness of U.S. business and consumer demand for foreign-made products.

The export decline was led by sharp drops in the capital goods and motor vehicles categories.

— Market News International

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