The US trade deficit in March jumped to the highest level in more than six years as a small increase in exports was swamped by a flood of imports from cars to mobile phones.
The Commerce Department said the deficit rose to 51.4 billion US dollars (£34 billion), the largest trade gap since October 2008 and more than 43% higher than the February imbalance.
Exports were up 0.9% to 187.8 billion US dollars (£124 billion), while imports increased 7.7% to 239.2 billion US dollars (£158 billion). The trade deficit is the short-fall between exports and imports.
Economists had expected the March deficit to expand, reflecting the resolution of labour disputes which had slowed shipments at West Coast ports. But the deficit was bigger than expected and will likely shrink an already anaemic first quarter of economic growth.