September Trade Deficit Narrows Despite Strong US Dollar

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Friday’s major economic report was the Employment Situation from the Labor Department, showing muted payrolls gains. The report on international trade (or the trade deficit) may not be a market-moving number on its own, and being overshadowed by the muted payrolls report makes it perhaps even less pertinent than before.

International trade was down by $36.4 billion in September, versus the drop of $38.9 billion expected by Bloomberg. The Econoday range was −$44 billion to −$36 billion.

August was revised to −$40.5 billion from a preliminary reading of −$40.7 billion.

A decline in imports actually helped the number look soft, which feels odd considering that the U.S. dollar is still quite strong. Imports were down 1.1%, with a decline in capital goods and in consumer goods. Exports rose by 0.6%, after a strong gain for capital goods.

A nation by nation report with key partners where the United States runs at big deficits was shown as follows:

  • The U.S. deficit with China, a political hot button for years now,  shrank by $1.4 billion to $32.5 billion.
  • The trade deficit with the European Union narrowed by $3.7 billion to $10.1 billion.
  • The deficit with Japan was down by $1.2 billion to $4.8 billion.
  • Mexico was steady at $5.2 billion.

The good news here is that a drop in imports will act as a positive for gross domestic product (GDP). Higher exports are a boost for GDP. This data still does not give a ringing endorsement for business activity, but it is one more report showing that the deficit can at least shrink.