WASHINGTON – The U.S. trade deficit rose in January as American exports fell for a fourth straight month, the Commerce Department said Friday.
The gap between exports and imports climbed to $45.7 billion in January from a revised $44.7 billion in December. Exports of goods and services fell 2.1 percent in January to $176.5 billion, lowest since June 2011. Exports of industrial equipment and supplies were down. American exporters have been hurt by weakness around the world and by a strong dollar that makes U.S. products more expensive overseas.
The high dollar should be helping imports by making them cheaper in America. But imports slid 1.3 percent $222.1 billion in January, lowest since April 2011. Lower oil prices explain part of the drop. Petroleum imports of $11.2 billion were the lowest since November 2003. But January imports of autos and auto parts hit a record $30.6 billion.
The deficit in the trade of goods with China rose to $31.1 billion in January from $29.7 billion. The goods gap with the European Union dropped to $12.6 billion from $13.3 billion in December.
Increasing trade deficits drag down U.S. gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic output. Last year, the gap between exports and imports shaved more than 0.6 percentage points off annual GDP growth of 2.4 percent.