Washington, D.C. – The volume of U.S. exports unexpectedly hit a five-month low in September, widening the trade deficit by 7.6 percent to $40.3 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC).
The DOC said that September’s shortfall is bigger than the $38.1 billion deficit that the government had forecasted in its recently published advance gross domestic product (GDP) estimate for the third quarter.
As a result, the 3.5 percent annual growth pace it estimated “will probably be trimmed” when the government publishes its revisions later this month.
At the same time, the agency revised August’s trade deficit to $39.99 billion from a previously reported $40.11 billion shortfall. When adjusted for inflation, the trade deficit increased to $50.76 billion from $48.22 billion.
Trade was reported to have contributed only 1.32 percentage points to U.S. GDP growth.
Exports in September fell 1.5 percent to $195.59 billion, the lowest since April, while exports to the European Union fell 6.5 percent and those to China slipped 3.2 percent.
Transpacific shipments to Japan tumbled 14.7 percent with declines also seen in the volume of exports to both Mexico and Brazil.
Overall imports were unchanged in September as petroleum imports hit their lowest level since November 2009. A domestic energy boom has seen the United States reduce its dependence on foreign oil, helping to temper the trade deficit.
Consumer goods imports, however, were the highest on record, as were non-petroleum imports.
Imports from Canada were the highest since July 2008, while inbound shipments from China also hit an all-time record boosting the U.S. trade deficit with that country gap to $35.6 billion, the highest on record.