The US trade deficit widened slightly in August to $38.80bn, from July's figure of $38.64bn (revised from $39.15bn). Analysts epxected that it would fall to $39.50bn.
Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics, says the deficit suggests "that net external trade had a neutral impact on overall third-quarter GDP growth", which Capital Economics estimate was near 2.0 per cent annualised.
Exports fell by a trivial 0.1 per cent from July to August, although, as Ashworth points out, the decline would have been even worse without a 5.5 per cent July to August jump in automotive exports.
A fall in the volume of crude oil imported more than offset a recovery in the price per barrel, ensuring a slight decline in the cost of imported energy.
The upbeat survey evidence, says Ashworth, "points to a pick-up on the growth rates of both exports and imports over the next few months, although the overall trade deficit should remain broadly unchanged, particularly if the most recent drop back in crude oil prices is sustained."