US trade gap narrows unexpectedly in Feb

WASHINGTON - The US trade deficit narrowed unexpectedly in February to $58.4 billion, as crude oil imports fell sharply to the smallest in four years and average imported oil prices were the lowest since December 2005, a government report on Friday showed.

By (Reuters)

Published: Fri 13 Apr 2007, 9:42 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:06 PM

The Commerce Department also lowered its estimate of the January trade gap to $58.9 billion, from its previous estimate of $59.1 billion.

The midpoint estimate of Wall Street analysts surveyed before the report was for the February trade gap to widen slightly to $60.0 billion. The smaller-than-expected trade gap could prompt analysts to raise their estimates of first-quarter US economic growth.

The petroleum trade deficit was the smallest since June 2005, as crude oil import volume fell 21 percent to its lowest since February 2003 and prices dipped to $50.71 per barrel, from $52.23 in January.

Imports from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries were $9.9 billion, the lowest since May 2005.

Overall imports fell 1.7 percent in February to $182.4 billion, led by the drop in petroleum and aided by other categories. However, imports of foods, feeds and beverages rose slightly to a record during the month.

Imports from China fell 10 percent to $23.1 billion, the lowest since May 2006. The closely watched trade gap with that country narrowed 13.3 percent, as US exports to China grew 6.1 percent to $4.6 billion.

Overall US exports retreated 2.2 percent to $124.0 billion after rising steadily in the six prior months. Exports of US consumer goods slipped from the record set in January, but still were the second-highest ever.

The trade gap with China for the first two months of 2007 was still 25.1 percent wider than in the same period last year.

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