US trade gap worsened by high oil prices

 
Julian Harris
Follow Julian
AMERICAN exports set a record in March, buoyed by the weak dollar and strengthening global demand, it was revealed yesterday.

Yet the country’s trade gap widened further, as oil prices pushed up the import bill by almost five per cent.

The US trade deficit grew to $48.2bn (£29.2bn), its widest level since June 2010.

“The level of exports has finally returned to pre-recession levels,” said Paul Dales of Capital Economics.

“But the surveys suggest that imports will continue to grow at a faster rate,” Dales added.

Imports grew 4.9 per cent to $220.8bn as the average price for imported oil hit $93.76 per barrel, the highest level since September 2008.

Oil prices continued to rise in April, but have receded in recent weeks back to early March levels.

US exports grew 4.6 per cent in March to $172.7bn, surpassing the record set in July 2008 before world trade took a sharp downturn. The March export rise was the biggest month-to-month gain in 17 years, the Commerce Department said.

The dollar has fallen 5.2 per cent against a basket of currencies since the beginning of the year, boosting prospects for exports.

A fresh two-and-a-half-year high was recorded in American job openings, which rose 99,000 to 3.12m, the highest since September 2008.

Meanwhile, the US government’s budget deficit came in at $40.48bn for April, roughly in line with expectations.

FAST FACTS | AMERICAN ECONOMY

US imports totalled $220.8bn in March.

Exports rose, but remained more than £48bn lower at $172.7bn for the month.

The US government’s deficit was more than $40bn last month.