WASHINGTON: The US trade deficit jumped in December as the strong dollar helped to boost imports sharply. But a surprising surge in oil and oil products imports, despite the plunge in crude prices, may have distorted the monthly figures, analysts said.
The monthly deficit jumped by US$6.8 billion from November to US$46.6 billion. Exports fell US$1.5 billion to US$194.9 billion, while imports rose US$5.3 billion to US$241.4.
That rounded out a year in which the US trade deficit grew 6.0 per cent to US$505 billion. Exports rose 2.9 per cent to US$2.35 trillion, and imports gained 3.4 per cent to US$2.85 trillion.
Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics called the surge in the deficit in December “baffling,” with the volume of oil imports surging 31.7 per cent to “far above the underlying trend” and handily offsetting the drop in oil prices. “We have to expect a big correction in January,” he said.
Economist Jay Morelock of FTN Financial noted the implicit effects of the strong dollar. “The trade gap with China and the European Union widened to an all-time high as US consumers take advantage of the increased spending power of the greenback and a relatively healthy economy,” he said in a client note.