U.S. trade deficit widens on higher imports

A trading store in U.S.

A trading store in U.S.

The United State (U.S.) trade deficit rose more than expected in August as a rise in imports offset higher exports.

The Commerce Department said the trade gap widened 3 percent to $40.73 billion. Imports hit their highest level since September 2015 while exports were the highest since July of last year. The July trade deficit was revised to $39.55 billion from a previous $39.47 billion.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade gap decreasing to $39.3 billion in August. When adjusted for inflation, the deficit fell to $57.48 billion from a revised $58.23 billion in July.

The dollar held modest losses against a basket of currencies after the data. U.S. stock futures were trading slightly higher and prices for longer-dated U.S. Treasuries were lower.

Exports have begun to slowly shake off the lingering effects of the dollar, which had strengthened for much of the past two years against the currencies of the United States’ major trading partners.

A separate report by a leading payrolls processor showed U.S. private employers added 154,000 jobs in September, slightly below economists’ expectations. The more closely-watched monthly U.S. jobs report is scheduled for release on Friday.

In August, exports of goods and services edged up 0.8 percent to $187.85 billion. Exports to China rose 2.6 percent and were up 1.2 percent to the European Union. Exports to the United Kingdom rose 2.4 percent.

Imports of goods and services increased 1.2 percent to $228.58 billion in August. Oil prices averaged $39.38 per barrel in August, down 20.2 percent from a year ago.

Meanwhile, MarketWatch described the deficit as a reflection of a strong dollar that makes foreign goods cheaper as well as a burst in spending tied to the Rio Olympics.

Despite the increase in August, the deficit is on track to be smaller in the third quarter than in the spring. That’s likely to help inflat gross domestic product, the official scorecard of the U.S. economy.

“The data point to a sizable boost to real GDP” in the third quarter, said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

Exports edged up 0.8% to $187.9 billion to mark the highest level since July 2015, the government said.

Shipments of soybeans topped $5 billion in value for the second straight month, as U.S. farmers took advantage of rising global demand and a supbar crop yield in South America. Soybean exports were up a whopping 42% through the first eight months of 2016 compared to the same period a year earlier.

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