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Trade deficit widens on export declines


The U.S. trade deficit expanded to $27.6 billion in March as the global recession cut into export sales, the Associated Press reported.

The March deficit was 5.5 percent higher than February’s revised $26.1 billion trade gap, which was a nearly 10-year low.

The deficit for the first quarter of the year is running at an annual rate of $359.7 billion, far below last year’s $681.1 billion. Economists expect the deficit to remain at low levels this year as the recession cuts into demand for foreign goods.

Exports declined 2.4 percent to $123.6 billion, with sales of farm products down $2.4 billion and capital goods down $1.7 billion.

Imports fell 1 percent to $151.2 billion, as imports of capital goods slid $516 million. Purchases of foreign oil, however, rose 6.2 percent to $17.2 billion.

The deficit with China rose 10 percent to $15.6 billion in March, fueling continued criticism of what critics see as unfair trade practices in China, which have resulted in the loss of millions of American manufacturing jobs. However, China said its global export sales fell 22.6 percent in April from the year-ago period, a sign that the country’s trade sector is being hit hard by the global recession.

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