US trade deficit at lowest in four years
The US trade deficit fell to its lowest level in four years in November as exports hit a record high and weak oil prices restrained import growth, the latest evidence of strengthening economic fundamentals.
The Commerce Department said the trade gap fell 12.9pc to $34.3bn (€25.2bn). That was the smallest deficit since October 2009.
October's shortfall on the trade balance was revised to $39.3bn from the previously reported $40.6bn.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade deficit slipping to $40bn in November.
When adjusted for inflation, the trade gap fell to $44.6bn from $47.0bn the prior month.
This measure goes into the calculation of gross domestic product, and November's decline could see economists bump up their fourth-quarter growth estimates
Trade contributed marginally to growth in the third quarter, but abating fiscal headwinds in Europe should lead to a recovery in demand in that region and help boost US exports.
The US economy appears positioned to shift into higher growth this year, with data ranging from employment to manufacturing and consumer spending, suggesting it ended 2013 on a solid footing.
The outlook has been strengthened by a pick-up in domestic demand and diminishing uncertainty over fiscal policy.
The trade data appeared to have little immediate impact on US financial markets.
In November, exports rose 0.9pc to $194.9bn. That was the highest on record and marked a second straight month of gains.
There were increases in exports of industrial supplies, capital goods and automobiles.
Petroleum exports hit a record high in November.
Exports to China also were the highest on record. They rose 8.7pc in the first 11 months of the year.