The international trade balance unexpectedly shrank in August by 3.6% to a $30.7 billion deficit as petroleum imports declined to the lowest dollar amount in almost 10 years, the Commerce Department reported Friday.
The U.S. exported $128.2 billion of goods and services while it imported $158.9 billion for the month. The trade deficit in July was revised lower to $31.9 billion from the initially reported $32.0 billion. Economists expected the trade deficit to grow to $33.0 billion for the month, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.
Imports decreased 0.6% to $158.9 billion from $159.8 billion in July. Auto vehicle and parts imports accounted for $14.6 billion, the highest amount since December 2008. Imports of foods, feeds, and beverages accounted $6.7 billion, the lowest amount since May 2007.
The real-dollar petroleum deficit was the lowest since March 1996, as petroleum imports shrank to the lowest amount since December 1999. Crude oil, which is the largest good imported by the U.S. and accounts for 12% of total imports, fell by $1.1 billion in August.
Exports increased 0.2% for the month to $128.2 billion from $128.0 billion in July. Exports of capital goods fell to $30.9 billion, the lowest amount since October 2005. Industrial supplies and materials exports increased to the highest amount since November 2008.
The trade deficit with China, the U.S.’s largest trading partner, decreased 0.9% to $94 billion in August. Imports from China increased to the largest dollar amount since November 2008.
Imports from Mexico, the U.S.’s second-largest trading partner, grew 0.9% in August, increasing to the largest dollar amount since November 2008.
Imports from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties declined 4.0% to a $10.1 billion deficit.