12 May 2012

US trade deficit widens

5:34 am on 12 May 2012

The US trade deficit widened at its fastest rate for 10 months in March.

Official figures from the Commerce Department show the deficit at $51.8 billion in March, up from $45.4 billion in February.

Rising imports of oil, cars, mobile phones and clothing contributed to a 5.2% rise in exports to $238.6 billion, which more than cancelled out a 2.9% rise in exports to $168.6 billion.

Exports to Europe hit a record high, despite the eurozone debt crisis, rising 11.5% to $25.1 billion. However imports from the EU also hit a record high, rising 22.7% to just under $35 billion.

There is concern that sales to Europe could decline in the coming months as some European economies stagnate, the BBC reports.

The widening of the trade gap was exaggerated by February's sharp decline from the figure of $52.5 billion in January.

The trade deficit is running at an annual rate of almost $600 billion, about 7% more than the previous year.