Washington, DC – The volume of US imports surged and exports declined in April, pushing the US trade deficit to a two-year high of $47.2 billion, according to the latest figures released by the US Department of Commerce.
The trade deficit for the month climbed by 6.9 percent from an upwardly revised March deficit of $44.2 billion with imports growing by 1.2 percent to an all-time high of $240.6 billion and exports falling for the fourth month in a row by a rate of 0.2 percent to $195.4 billion.
In 2013, the trade deficit declined by 11.4 percent to $476.4 billion. Some analysts feel the decline in exports can be pegged on the extreme cold weather in the eastern and southern US coupling with the continuing drought in California’s agricultural Central Valley to impact the country’s manufacturing capability and, at the same time, increase the volume of imported foodstuffs.
The same analysts, though, are guardedly forecasting a bounce back with economic growth reaching around 3 percent in the second half of the year as a boom in the nation’s energy sector could well narrow the trade gap. Stronger domestic petroleum production cut oil imports by 10.9 percent during the first quarter of the year, while oil imports in April fell 2.2 percent to $29.8 billion, while conditional US petroleum exports rose 3.1 percent to $11.8 billion.
The US trade deficit with the 28-member European Union hit a monthly record of $14 billion in April as imports from that region hit an all-time high, while the trade gap with China, the largest the US has with any trading partner, jumped 33.7 percent to $27.3 billion in April, the largest gap since January.
The US-China trade relationship has come under scrutiny on Capitol Hill with some lawmakers charging that Beijing is manipulating its currency to keep it undervalued against the dollar. That manipulation, they have said, makes imported Chinese goods cheaper in the US and American-made products more expensive in China.